Australian Newsagency Blog

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Victorian small business retailers adjusting to stage 4 restrictions

Mark Fletcher
August 4th, 2020 · 21 Comments

Speaking personally. Owning a business that remains open in the Melbourne metro stage 4 lockdown can be a good feeling, for a moment, a brief moment, and then you realise all the businesses around you that will close.

Every local retail business is part of a community, an ecosystem, of businesses and people who rely on those businesses. So many colleagues will be home and out of work, with shops close. Some will have prepared and have an online operation through which they can trade. however, I suspect the majority will not.

Right now, I wonder if 6 (or more) weeks on we will see the announcement yesterday as a phyrric victory.

It is odd considering this through the prism of owning businesses that get to remain open. I didn’t expect this to be the case. It is good, but challenging.

Back in the first weeks of March we planned for this. We were frugal with spending, backing only winners, prepping for what might come. That work, back then, has made the path ahead more certain for us and provided the capacity for us to pivot, again, through the new stage 4 situation.

Looking at this more broadly. The rest of Australia is starting to see the role businesses in Victoria play. This is reflected in the detail of the government announcement yesterday.

In our channel, with all major card companies and many major gift, toy, games and plush suppliers supplying through Victorian based warehouses, the impact could have been far worse.

The reduction in warehouse teams will slow supply, but not stop it. I think key will be timing of ordering. retailers are well advised to add a buffer to the order cycle. For example, if you usually order Wednesday for an early the next week delivery, pull that forward by at least two days and include a buffer so you are not left without stock.

In the Melbourne metro area, there are opportunities for retail newsagencies to offer products other local retailers cannot. Toys, games, gifts, homewares all fit within this opportunity space. However, engaging with these opportunities will need respect and care so as to not damage other local relationships. Nimble suppliers will embrace this opportunity for relationships with newsagency businesses, some, maybe, for the first time.

The rest of Australia. Outside of Victoria, I expect that stage 4 in Victoria will impact the psyche of Australians as it offers a more local case study on dealing with the ramifications of people with corona being close to others.

As someone living and working in metro Melbourne, it is an unexpected and weird experience. However, like plenty of 2020, it is something to understand and deal with.


Category: Social responsibility

21 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Colin // Aug 4, 2020 at 9:27 AM

    Customers can and should be fined for going out to buy non essential items. So I would be very wary of over stocking or branching into new areas. It only takes one person to start trashing a shop on social media and not doing the right to ruin years of hard earned customer support.

    If a shop near me started stocking new items and taking advantage of closed business neighbours, I would not shop there again

    Be thoughtful in what you do.


  • 2 Paul // Aug 4, 2020 at 9:39 AM

    Wishing everyone over East all the best for the coming weeks and months – stay safe, stay strong, stay positive


  • 3 Steve // Aug 4, 2020 at 10:26 AM

    Colin I think you are reading to much into the restrictions. My understanding is that all retailers can remain open for click & collect. Having said that the work and travel restrictions will undoubtedly impact foot traffic and for some more so than others.

    Mark is there anything we in the other states can do to support our Victorian cousins in the channel at this time? With so many of our wholesalers based in Melbourne I fear that stock supply will soon become an issue for all of us.


  • 4 Shayne // Aug 4, 2020 at 10:43 AM

    Colin, you mean like when McDonalds starting selling Fresh milk, eggs etc during the last lockdown?


  • 5 Glenn // Aug 4, 2020 at 10:53 AM

    Colin, would those businesses stocking new items similar to nearby competitors be taking advantage of those competitors, or would they be providing product and a service to a grateful public who now cannot source it at their normal location but still have a need for it in their local community?

    I guess the test will be whether or not they then continue to stock competitors product once restrictions are lifted.


  • 6 Mark Fletcher // Aug 4, 2020 at 12:24 PM

    Steve, I have spoken with many Victorian based wholesalers over the last 24 hours. I think supply will be okay. Maybe a bit slow, but okay. I know those suppliers would appreciate your business.

    In terms of Vic newsagents. What they (we) are going through is a trial for the rest of the country if it comes to that. I think watching, learning and supporting are good.

    To those others making this about politics or cheap shots right now, it’s unhelpful.


  • 7 Colin // Aug 4, 2020 at 3:10 PM

    My understanding is wholesaling continues for food, pharmaceuticals and essential items. Then there is an exemption for newspapers and magazines.

    Wholesalers for non essential items are closed. So no toys, candles, puzzles etc.


  • 8 Graeme Day // Aug 4, 2020 at 6:36 PM

    Colin, Some of these items could be essential and could be required depending upon the circumstances.
    The articles are not policed and can be obtaned from many differentand are available in limited range and quantities from Woolies, Coles Aldi Costco IGA etc.


  • 9 Colin // Aug 4, 2020 at 7:10 PM

    Graeme ,

    The classification of newsagents as essential seems part historic and newspapers/magazines being classed as essential, hence the wholesale and manufacturing exemptions.

    But the public cannot go shopping to buy just non essential items. If they go to a newsagents and emerge with only non essential items they will be acting illegally.


  • 10 Graeme Day // Aug 4, 2020 at 7:55 PM

    Colin give it a break who decides what is essential? and for what reason?
    What was essential years ago in not so today.
    All I can say is no wonder some Victorians are breaking out if they are treated like children-self discipline comes from others -showing respect and structure that makes sense as well as what harm non complance can do to the individual – it doesn’t come from by punishing those that buy candles or toys from a newsagent just because their open. Providing entertainment for each other in Lockdown such as a Candle lit dinner for some and a toy or puzzle for others is not “naughty” boy, naughty girl.
    There are adults here in Australia and I suspect Victoria has its share as well and they understand the bigger picture and they are facing a terible time .
    Essential services are limited outlets with offers that they would normaly have Toys candles etc and are usually accepted as newsagency lines.


  • 11 Colin // Aug 4, 2020 at 9:28 PM

    You are so wrong. You sum up the problem.

    You may go out once a day to buy essential items.

    Which of those words do you need help with.


  • 12 Mark Fletcher // Aug 5, 2020 at 7:37 AM

    Colin I understand your point about essential purchases and have some sympathy for it. However, here in Victoria we have a documented set of rules. There is no enforcer at store exits checking bags to ensure purchases are essential, thankfully.

    Given the role so much of what newsagents sell can fit into a wellbeing category, I think the designation is reasonable.

    Time to move on as those of us in the middle of this have more pressing matters on our minds.


  • 13 Colin // Aug 5, 2020 at 9:59 PM

    Sure, we all need to move on.

    On the wholesale front, we have now received several emails from Victoria based suppliers informing us they are closed. These are homeware home fragrance and body suppliers.


  • 14 Mark Fletcher // Aug 6, 2020 at 7:58 AM

    That’s odd Colin. Every Victorian based wholesaler I have spoken with this week, that’s 30+, has advised they are remain pen, within the stage 4 rules.


  • 15 Colin // Aug 6, 2020 at 3:27 PM

    I guess we move in different circles, ours being mainly homewares and lifestyle.


  • 16 Mark Fletcher // Aug 6, 2020 at 3:31 PM

    Colin, I’m not doubting what you’ve been told. Warehouses can be open regardless of their retail channel. There is a requirement, though, on reduction of staffing numbers. There is no reason, in the government issued rules, for them to close.

    The notices issued by the government are necessarily long and complex. It is critical that every business owner carefully reads them as it is only through doing this that you can get too a point of clarity that could show you can be open.


  • 17 Graeme Day // Aug 6, 2020 at 3:58 PM

    How else will they serve their on line customers?
    Makes no sense to close down the operation if there are no people contact en masse.


  • 18 Steve // Aug 6, 2020 at 5:23 PM

    It seems far more of all retail stock comes out of Melbourne than any other capital city. If the warehouses do not remain open at least in some reduced form then the whole country will quickly grind to a halt.


  • 19 Mark Fletcher // Aug 8, 2020 at 9:03 AM

    Steve, I think one reason this appears to be the case is the port. They say they handle more than a third of all of Australia’s container traffic.

    I’ve read and reread the stage 4 directions from government and see o reason for any wholesaler to totally close their warehouse and shipping operations.


  • 20 Graeme Day // Aug 8, 2020 at 12:53 PM

    Hi, Mark Steve,
    I agree it is the Port actually Geelong Lord Stanley Melbourne Bruce was born “an Englishman” born in Australia, an importer of goods and became Prime Minister 1923-29 he was made Viscount Lord Bruce and retired to England.
    Melbourne was the Financial Capital of Australia (note was) and the major importer from shipping in the Continent.
    Moving the Political “Capital” from Melbourne started the poltical demise of Melbourne’s power structure and changed fully with the end on the Menzies Government.
    Still many of our great suppliers and companies head offices including Banks are based in Melbourne.
    i also see no reason for any wholesaler to close in today’s environment especially from Melbourne as it is suffereing enough.


  • 21 Steve // Aug 8, 2020 at 7:10 PM

    Like the banks in the GFC the Victorian based supply chain is too big to fail.


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