They are described as short, sharp and harsh but will circuit breaker lockdowns have lasting effects on small businesses?
Over a year into the pandemic, we are all experts at social distancing and mask-wearing. Many don’t bat an eyelid when asked to put on a mask or let little circles on the floor dictate our place in society, literally. For the most part, these don’t impact our lives too greatly and are justified because it limits the spread of COVID-19.
However, there is one aspect of pandemic life that seems incredibly tough every time it’s forced upon us; lockdowns. Each state has had its fair share of them (some more than others), and they are now the default method to contain outbreaks. And for a good reason; they work. The proof is in the numbers seen all over the world. Whether you average 25,000 or three cases a day, the numbers will plummet after you immobilise a community to only the essentials.
While these lockdowns are effective, they have a devastating impact on the economy, especially small businesses. Perth and Brisbane both underwent circuit breaker lockdowns this year, and Victoria is currently in the grips of a statewide five-day lockdown.
Jacinta Knight is the founder of Refine Skin in Wodonga, Victoria. Located in a border town, she fears she will lose business to those who can continue to operate in New South Wales.
“Similar businesses can continue to operate only 10 minutes away from me, potentially leaving my business with the chance of losing more clients after another shutdown because I continuously have to cancel clients with the uncertainty of when they can rebook,” she said. Jacinta has had to contact clients to reschedule their appointments.
Olivia Catherine is the founder of Olivia Catherine Facialist and another Melbourne small business owner who also understands the struggle of rescheduling clients, especially when there isn’t any confirmation that she will reopen in five days.
“Rescheduling is difficult as it’s been busy and you want to do right by those clients that were booked during this sudden lockdown and get them back in ASAP. It’s very likely I’ll be working extra days to compensate,” Olivia said.
‘Somethings gotta give’
There are also the mental effects of circuit breaker lockdowns for small business owners. Olivia says the past days have been immensely triggering of the trauma associated with the second Melbourne lockdown, which continued for 26 weeks last year.
Many business owners can empathise with the struggles, and we have all done it tough in other ways, but we can’t truly understand the anxiety that comes with these lockdowns.
“I love what I do, and I love treating my clients, so it’s tough not being able to do that,” Olivia said.
“The impact of yet another closure, no matter the number of days or weeks means more loss of business, especially after only just coming back from 26 weeks of closure in November,” Jacinta adds.
Cash flow is a significant issue for businesses during a circuit breaker lockdown. Most have found other ways to keep money flowing into the business. Olivia says several of her clients purchased online courses shortly after the snap lockdown and this support is ‘priceless’. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always pay the bills.
“I am creative and constantly adapting and reinventing my business, but something’s gotta give. Businesses like ours cannot continually be on this lockdown roller coaster – it’s just not workable,” Olivia adds.
“Our clinic has finally picked up with a cash flow coming in, which immediately stops with another closure. Although expenses, rent, annual leave and bills, do not stop during this time,” Jacinta said.
Is your business affected by circuit breaker lockdowns? Let us know in the comments or e-mail us your story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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