“It’s just what it is”: Melbourne businesses face longer lockdown as Andrews vetoes retail reopening

Sun Bookshop Melbourne

Deb Force has operated The Sun Bookshop in Yarraville, Melbourne for close to 22 years. Source: supplied.

If metropolitan Melbourne retailers were hoping to reopen next week, they’re set for disappointment, with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews saying it’s “unlikely” restrictions will ease from October 19, as previously hoped.

In the original reopening roadmap, laid out in early-September, retailers were scheduled to reopen during the third step, from October 26. It was then speculated that this could happen a week earlier, from October 19.

But, all of this relied on meeting a case threshold of five cases per day, on average, over a two-week period, and a total of five cases from unknown sources.

As of yesterday, when Melbourne recorded 15 new cases, it became mathematically impossible to achieve this target by October 19.

That’s bad news for Melbourne’s retailers, which have been operating under click-and-collect and delivery models since early-July.

Speaking at his daily press conference yesterday, Andrews said while no final decision has been made, it is “unlikely that this weekend there’ll be a big shift in terms of retail”.

He addressed calls to reopen from DIY and gardening giant Bunnings, which has stressed its stores are safe, and have not been linked to any COVID-19 outbreaks.

However, it’s about curbing movement, he said.

“The notion that no positive person has moved through one of their stores or any other retail store is probably unlikely. I think they almost certainly have,” Andrews said.

“It’s not so much their premises, because they’ve done a great job with cleaning and all their protocols,” he explained.

“It’s not so much the problem with the setting, it’s letting all the customers out of their homes to then go and shop there. That’s the real challenge.”

“It was obvious”

For Deb Force, owner of The Sun Bookshop in Yarraville, the continuing restrictions come as a disappointment, but not a surprise.

“I listen to or watch the presser every day,” she tells SmartCompany.

“It was obvious it was coming.”

And, while the lockdown hasn’t been easy for anyone, Force accepts that it’s in the best interests of her community. And, in the long run, for businesses like hers.

“If this is done properly this time, then hopefully it won’t happen again,” she says.

“Of course I’m disappointed, because it’s so much nicer to have customers in the shop, but we’re prepared for it now, we’re used to it.

“As annoying as it is, it’s just what it is,” she adds.

“I see how hard it is for people. But at the same time, I think this will pass.”

In the early days of the pandemic, back in March, The Sun Bookshop launched a free bicycle delivery service, dropping books to people who were self-isolating in Kingsville, Seddon and Yarraville.


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We are currently offering free local delivery for customers in the Kingsville, Seddon and Yarraville area who are medically isolated, self isolated, or are choosing not to venture out in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. If an order is placed before 2pm via our online store, or over the phone, and the book is in stock, we will deliver it to you SAME DAY, for free. If an order is placed after 2pm and the book is in stock, we will deliver it to you the FOLLOWING DAY for free. Please select Click&Collect as your shipping method at checkout and include “Isolation Delivery Required” in the notes section We will place your order either in your letter box or at your front door, and you will receive a text message to advise you that your order has been delivered. Please ensure that your mobile number and the delivery address are correctly entered at checkout. ***Edit – we will also deliver to Spotswood and Newport for free, however it will be next day delivery for all orders in those areas*** http://shop.sunbookshop.com (03) 9689 0661 info@sunbookshop.com #sunbookshop #shoplocal #supportlocal #innerwestmelbourne

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That service was so successful that eventually Force bought a second-hand car for the business, and opened up the service to additional nearby suburbs.

“It’s really been amazing,” she says.

While business is down on what it would usually be, the JobKeeper supplement has helped Force keep most of her staff on the books, and the team now runs as a small and effective warehouse.

“We’ve survived, and we’re really lucky.”

So, for this small business owner, it’s frustrating to hear of big businesses such as Bunnings putting pressure on the government to allow for earlier reopening.

“I do think it’s a thing about most big businesses — they’re focused on money. They’re not focused so much on people’s wellbeing,” she says.

“Money isn’t what life is about. There’s a whole lot of other things in there,” she adds.

“At the moment, one of those things is doing the right thing for the community.”

“No decision” on beauty bookings

At yesterday’s press conference, Andrews was also asked whether hair and beauty businesses should be cancelling bookings made for next week in the hope they would be able to reopen.

And, while he didn’t give a definitive answer, he at least apologised for the uncertainty.

“No decision has been made on those matters. I’m not foreshadowing one way or the other,” Andrews said.

“I would just say — whether it be one of those businesses or a bar, restaurant, cafe, pub — no matter what the setting, all of those bookings, the status of those, can only be determined once we’ve made a final call on what’s safe for us to do in the next step,” he added.

“If that causes inconvenience, I’m sorry about that. I am.

“But those bookings were only ever made … on the basis [that] we’d have to look and see what the actual, real data told us.”

NOW READ: Beauty businesses to reopen sooner, after Victoria backflips on timeline

NOW READ: Retail roulette: COVID-19 has changed the way we shop, and the future will be a mixed bag of fortunes for businesses


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