Patience and kindness is crucial as Eurobodalla businesses navigate an uncertain way forward under the NSW Government’s roadmap.
As they grapple with the prospect of policing customers’ vaccination status, check-ins, masks and sanitisation on top of their usual operations, many local business owners – while pleased the shire is reopening – are cautious.
Eurobodalla’s Council’s economic development manager Teresa Lever said there were some concerns from business owners about ensuring a safe work environment for their staff.
“Everyone is looking forward to being open, however we need visitors and the community to be respectful of the rules,” she said.
“With the state in lockdown for so long, we’re also anticipating a busy summer and want to ensure everyone has a great experience.”
A strange alignment of extraordinary circumstances had, until recently, buoyed Eurobodalla’s economy. Now, for the first time in 13 months, data is reflecting Covid impacts.
“Over the past year-and-a-half we’ve seen bushfire recovery funding, economic stimulus and public investment flow into the shire,” Ms Lever said.
“In June 2021 however, we saw a 9.4 per cent drop in Eurobodalla’s expenditure when compared to June 2020. This was attributed to an 18% drop in visitor spending, as well as a 28 per cent increase in locals buying elsewhere.
“We’re yet to receive July and August figures and it is of concern how online purchasing will trend.”
Ms Lever said retail and food services had been hit hard by the lockdown.
“This is especially significant for Batemans Bay, where 30 per cent of employed people work across these two sectors,” she said.
“Thankfully it isn’t all doom and gloom though – some businesses are still performing well. The construction and trades sector for example is kicking goals with things like home improvements.
“There is no simple message around business confidence – it is complex.”
Eurobodalla Council’s economic development team has been linking local businesses with available support and working with new businesses looking into coming into the area. The council is also focused on addressing a key finding from its recent business confidence survey that only 52 per cent of respondents had a continuity plan to manage disruption to their business.
If Ms Lever could give one message to local businesses, it would be to take advantage of the available support if needed.
“We’re all in this together,” she said.
“This is an unprecedented time for all of us and businesses in particular are having to change how they’re doing things – and they’re doing a fantastic job.”