As we near the end of February already, my last column seems but a distant memory with so much unexpected change and curve balls being thrown at our business community. At this time in January, we were all busy preparing for the state's hard border to come down on February 5, which then all changed a week later. As of Friday, February 18, we all now find ourselves back in this very same position with the State Government announcing the new plan to reopen on March 3. At the start of the week, all signs were indicating an opening of early April, and this new announcement bringing the opening forward is indeed welcomed, however has pushed many of us back yet again from a planning perspective. We now have two weeks to replan, we've done it before, and we can certainly do it again.
Already feelings and feedback regarding this new date are mixed with pros and cons stacking up equally. Unfortunately, since the first date change exactly one month ago, business and consumer confidence has still not recovered, and forward projections are not indicating any immediate reprieve. A large majority of businesses have continued to suffer from guideline confusion and tensions around mandate enforcement, footfall in retail and entertainment precincts has halved. To add to this, almost all businesses have suffered to a degree due to stock and supply issues, compounded by other skyrocketing costs even in unexpected or forecasted areas such as payroll taxes. All in all, it's been a pretty tough month for business in general and it would be absurd to not acknowledge this.
The pros and cons continue with the introduction of level one measures as we find ourselves back to certain restrictions almost forgotten. While none of this is ideal, there are some positives to consider. We have all had a head-start with regards to mask requirements with the overarching majority understanding what is required of them and doing the right thing. We can also expect further business support packages being announced which will be of great assistance to many businesses. The Chamber has continually advocated for such packages, and this advocacy will not be stopping any time soon; if business is heavily restricted or affected by mandates, assistance packages had better be on the table.
Up until the announcement much modelling and forecasting was indicating the effects of infection in the community to peak in May, not only as we enter winter and the flu season, but also a time at which vaccine effectiveness would be dropping. With modelling now indicating a March peak, the dire predictions have subsided to a degree. Aggression towards business owners and staff however has unfortunately continued to increase, placing even more strain on businesses due to staff losses. Businesses and their staff are just trying to do what they have to do to continue to trade - they don't make the rules. This abhorrent behaviour needs to end immediately.
Even with this uncertainty, remember, you are not on your own. Your Chamber is your business umbrella, don't stand out in the rain by yourself, there's room under the umbrella for you.
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