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Buy local, business urges, amid calls for compensation

Business

The state’s businesses sector is continuing its calls for compensation and urging South Australians to support local traders amid ongoing restrictions on indoor venues leading up to Christmas.

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It comes as the State Government prepares to implement a two-week, step-down strategy in easing measure imposed at the start of the outbreak.

These include a plan to open the borders to Victorians from tomorrow and easing some limits on pub, restaurants and café patrons.

But a general work from home advisory remains as well as the one person per four square meter rule for all indoor venues.

Business SA chief executive Martin Haese said that restriction meant most businesses would be operating at 25 per cent capacity, which was not financially viable.

Haese has also called agian for the State Government to relax the eligibility criteria for $10,000 emergency grants for businesses in the lead up to the holiday season.

He said the grant eligibility followed similar criteria to the Federal Government’s JobKeeper payments and while about 35 per cent of South Australian businesses were receiving the second round of assistance – labelling it “a lifeline” – there were many which had missed out.

“JobKeeper is very good ­­but it is a blunt instrument – you’re either on JobKeeper or you’re not. If you’re not, you don’t really apply for anything and that doesn’t mean you’re not in a world of pain in a business sense,” Haese said.

“We are advocating for more nuanced stimulus measures. There are businesses which were 26 per cent down on the last quarter and that doesn’t mean they’re doing well, it just means they’re not down by 30 per cent.

“Curiously, they’re probably more vulnerable than those which are on JobKeeper.”

Haese has also urged the government to regularly review progress with the Parafield cluster to consider if all restrictions can be lifted earlier.

He said the continued measures would have a significant impact on the retail, events and hospitality sectors in what is usually their busiest period.

“Business SA also has grave concerns for the city with work from home advice all but cancelling Christmas for city traders, who will wear the brunt of this as they have all year,” he said.

“There are lots of businesses – and lots of families – which are reliant upon a good Christmas trade.”

His comments follow a BankSA study released last week, which indicated South Australians would cut back on their Christmas spending in 2020.

According to the report, 30 per cent of South Australian households intended to spend less than in 2019, with almost two-thirds indicating this was directly related to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

The study also showed 65 per cent of South Australians would prefer to buy local products and 60 per cent planned to shop in-store.

But Haese said while Christmas trading would benefit businesses in the short term, the only long-term solution to the city’s financial woes would be increased foot traffic.

“The ultimate way to underwrite the sustainability of any enterprise is going to be people, especially in terms of the city… that’s the ultimate panacea,” he said.

“As soon as it’s safe to do so, we need to bring the public service back to their offices, because there’s a large quantum of public servants working in the city.

“We also extend that call out to office managers and office directors of commercial corporations and NGOs and alike to do the same.”

Rundle Mall general manager Johanna Williams said the mall had experienced a 15 to 20 per cent drop in foot traffic compared with the months prior to the pandemic.

“People who are usually working in offices in the city are still working from home, under the directive, which is as it needs to be,” Williams said.

“And there are certainly no tourists and no international students, which are sort of the three key audience groups that have had a big impact.”

But Williams said South Australians should not be deterred from heading into the city, albeit with a mask.

She said additional security staff and COVID marshals had been deployed to the mall, as well as touch-point area cleaning and hand sanitiser stations, to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

“We’re obviously encouraging everyone, through the Christmas period and into the new year, to make the most of coming into the city to shop. Coming back to support bricks and mortar is critical – and it’s safe,” she said.

“We’ve got lots of extra measures in place.”

Adelaide Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor echoed Williams’ comments, urging South Australians to head into the mall and buy local.

“I think people just really need to get out and support the local businesses. We do have the biggest open-air mall in the country, and there’s something about fresh air that you can’t beat,” she said.

“(The City of Adelaide) have really worked very hard to make it a safe place and to look after people as they come into shop in the city.

“Once those restrictions ease, then we’re hoping all the normal Christmas celebrations will go ahead … and that everybody will come back into the city and have what they would normally have.

“Christmas has always been vital for business in the city – and it’s probably more so than any other time. We know that the Christmas trade is what gets a lot of businesses through the leaner months, and we’ve had plenty of those this year.”

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