Amid the evolving COVID situation, we spoke with Sydney clinic owners about the effects of the ongoing lockdown on their small businesses.
With positive case numbers growing by the day and little information on when Sydney-siders can expect to be out of lockdown, fear, uncertainty and financial stress are beginning to wreak havoc on small businesses.
Currently, grants of up to $10,000 are available to eligible small businesses in NSW and the federal COVID-19 Disaster Payment created in response to the Victorian lockdown has been made available to people in all states who meet the criteria. For employees who have lost more than 20 hours of work that means weekly payments of $500 from the second week of lockdown and just $325 for those who lost less than 20 hours of work.
While there’s talk that payments will increase by as much as 20%, is it enough? For many small businesses, the current support availble doesn’t even make a dent in their weekly rent.
Founder of Kristin Fisher Eyebrows, Kristin Fisher, was one of the first to speak out about the impact the government mandated lockdown is having on her Double Bay clinic.
She took to Instagram to express her anger toward the government for the botched vaccine roll-out and the dismal financial support that she says is too little too late for her small business.
“They’ve offered small business $10,000? That covers less than 2 weeks of my rent. They’re giving my staff $500 per week – again, how TF [sic] does one survive on that in Sydney?” Kristen wrote in her caption.
Writing that her business has only just started to catch up after last year’s lockdowns, her caption continued, “Not ONE DOLLAR has come through my accounts since we closed two weeks ago, and if this goes on for months, this will break us. Small business needs help and it needs it NOW. They say we’re the backbone of the country, put your money where your mouth is. We have rent and mortgages and mouths to feed and the situation is now dire.”
Many small business owners are facing the same financial storm
Laurisa Dannoun is a Registered Nurse and the Director of Injxu Cosmetics, a medi-aesthetics clinic in Sydney’s Inner West. Like many, the current lockdown is a major blow to her small business that was only just catching up from last year.
“Pre-lockdown, business was running almost as normal, financially we had virtually caught up from the massive blow we experienced last year during the previous lockdown.
“But the recent lockdown has resulted in a 100% downturn in income, and unfortunately bills do not stop. With no forecast for the future, it’s almost impossible to plan ahead and advise our patients on what’s next. It has been extremely stressful not knowing when we will be able to start operating again.”
As for the governments highly criticised response, Laurisa acknowledges we’re a lot better off in Australia than other countries, but the slow response missed the mark completely.
“With the most recent lockdown, I think the restrictions came in a little slow. We should have had a fast and hard lockdown initially, rather than letting cases escalate. We’ve had no financial support for the recent lockdown so far, but there are talks of a grant for small businesses which would be of great assistance to many within our community.”
Despite the stress, Laurisa is trying to stay positive by continuing to engage with her community online and creating a post-lockdown waitlist that will hopefully help the business recover when doors open again.
“Being a service-based business, there is only so much we can offer without having our clients in the clinic. Although it is difficult navigating through these unprecedented times, it’s important for business owners to continue to prioritise clients. Ensure you remain accessible to them, and continue to provide high quality educational advice and information,” she advises.
Financial stress isn’t the only cause for concern
Ashlee Hartney, is the owner of Eden Spa in Sydney’s Camden, another small business that’s come to a halt during lockdown. Her $2000 rent is causing serious concern as her landlord refuses to negotiate, but it’s the long-term impact on her team she’s most worried about.
“For me personally I’m worried and concerned more so for my team. The lockdown is causing stress and anxiety for the whole team. As a leader it’s important that I check in regularly with them however I worry that the impacts on their mental health is something that I will need to assist in repairing with long after we’re open,” says Ashlee.
“Job keeper was great last lockdown as I was able to still do training with the team but now it’s just unknown what will happen. I really feel for all the salons that don’t have business savings or the strength to push through.”
Some Sydney businesses are suffering their third lockdown
Based in Manly, Honey Body Salon has been forced to shut down for three lockdown periods now and the emotional and financial toll just keeps adding up for owner Lisa Zwart.
“We had a lockdown during our two biggest weeks of the year, Christmas and New Year’s. Those losses set us back significantly and should have got us back on track financially [after last year’s lockdown]. As a small family owned business we have six staff who still have mortgages to pay and mouths to feed. As a business we still have rent to pay, rates to pay, tax to pay, super to pay, utilities to pay etc. This has been very hard emotionally and physically. I don’t consider myself an anxious person but this lockdown has left me unable to sleep due to racing thoughts and worries at night,” shares Lisa.
While many spas and clinics have turned toward online sales in hopes of securing some form of income, Lisa says the reality is small businesses can’t compete with the major beauty retailers.
“We set up an online shop during the first round of lockdowns but as we are not tech whizs and did not have income to pay someone to run it or set it up, it has not been a great success. Especially as big businesses online can offer free shipping as well as big discounts due to their order quantities!”
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