Yellow Octopus founder Derek Sheen saw a “dramatic surge” in online orders when the first COVID-19 lockdown hit Victoria in March, but over the last week, there’s been another unprecedented rise in sales as retail stores shutter across Melbourne.
With stage four rules now in place, the prospect of delays for parcel deliveries has come into focus for business owners, particularly as the state government enforces stringent workforce reductions in distribution centres.
“We’ve started seeing some delivery delays with Australia Post since the middle of last week, but given that it’s only been a week since the new stage four restrictions came into place, we’ve yet to see the full effect of this new lockdown,” Sheen tells SmartCompany.
Business owners are taking to social media in droves to inform customers they might have to wait a bit longer for their parcels over the next few weeks as freight providers deal with the restrictions.
Australia Post inked a deal with the Victorian government on Monday to keep parcels flowing amid the enhanced restrictions, conceding there would be delays amid a 10% workforce reduction in Melbourne facilities.
“We have worked with the Victorian government to ensure that our post offices remain open and that our deliveries — our posties and drivers across Victoria — remain on the road,” an Australia Post spokesperson said in a statement.
“For our delivery and parcel facilities in metropolitan Melbourne only, we will have a 10 per cent daily workforce reduction, coupled with split shifts in a COVID-safe environment, ensuring cleaning between shifts and a COVIDSafe plan.
“While we do expect some delays as we work through these restrictions and set up our operations accordingly, we thank the Victorian government for their consideration and support to ensure the community receive the essentials services they need in a timely fashion.”
Sheen says he’d typically criticise Australia Post for delivery delays, but the coronavirus crisis is an unprecedented situation.
“This is a very difficult and challenging time for all businesses, and is something that nobody could have planned for,” he says.
“We are all just trying to do our best to work with these new restrictions, and would like to ask customers to be patient if parcels take a day or two longer to arrive.”
While freight and postal operations are listed as permitted businesses under the stage four rules, there are a raft of new regulations requiring warehouses across the city to reduce their operational capacities.
Distribution centres and warehouses are required to take the average of the highest number of workers they had on-site during July, or any three-month period in the last 12 months, and then reduce it by 33%.
Supermarket and perishable goods warehouses are subject to different restrictions, but the restrictions have nevertheless sent shock waves through Melbourne’s retail supply chains.
In addition to reducing workforce capacity, warehouses are required to draft and adopt high-risk COVIDSafe plans, requiring regular deep cleaning of equipment and onerous record-keeping rules.
In many ways, the reduced capacity is a double-whammy, with a heightened number of Victorians expected to shop online over the next five weeks amid a mass forced closure of physical retail stores.
The nature of deliveries is also changing in Melbourne, with the Victorian government requiring contactless delivery as a provision within COVIDSafe plans for the retail sector.