A blog on issues affecting Australia's newsagents, media and small business generally.

What’s it like for local small business newsagents in a community impacted by Covid

Thanks to inaction by government on containing Covid and the opening up of the country and it’s population to the virus, local small business retailers like newsagents are now daily dealing with significant consequences, and we are doing this with minimal government support or understanding.

Staffing is difficult with more virus around. There are newsagencies operating on reduced hours, some have had to close. Some owners are working 100 hours a week as they have no staff available – because of Covid infection, lack of access to childcare or because of fear – and their small regional community relies on the business for plenty of essentials. The staffing challenges are distressing many.

Customer anger is up, way up. The anti-vaxxers have a louder voice than ever, emboldened by recent capital city protests, and they are happy to use it in a shop enforcing mask requirements. Some anti-vaxxers vent in the shop or at the front door while others take to social media, posting bad reviews – and good luck to retailers trying to get those bad reviews taken down.

Rapid Antigen Test access is a big problem. Many newsagents were selling Rapid Antigen Tests tests last year. Backorders have been cancelled because of late government action on access to the tests. This is adding to stress for those running newsagencies and local communities relying on them for test supply.

Overheads are up. There are masks to buy as well as more cleaning supplies and other requirements necessary in these new settings.

Sales are all over the place. In plenty of newsagencies, sales are down because people are self regulating in the absence of government regulations, and isolating – but this time with more fear than when lockdowns were imposed. Whereas in 2020 and 2021 almost every newsagency in Australia saw double-digit growth, the let it rip approach pushed by NSW and now accepted nationally (except for WA) has resulted in more fear in the community and this fear keeps people home and not willing to spend. This happening in an economy with no business support settings is a new set of challenges.

Government support has disappeared. While dealing with Covid costs local small business retailers like newsagents much more than over the last two years, support from government is non-existent. So much for their care and concern for small business.

Whereas in 2020 and much of 2021 there was federal and state government clarity on rules and settings. Today, it’s a moving feast. The rule changes are hard to keep up with. Some don’t make sense. Some place us at more risk, letting people into the community when they may still be infectious. This adds to stress in the community and being local community hub businesses, newsagents feel it, every day.

2022 has not started off as anyone expected.

While the challenges are considerable, newsagents are doing their best, opening as much as they are able, providing as safe a retail setting as they can and offering their community support.

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  1. Steve

    I am now hearing of a number of retailers about to pull the pin and I worry about the many more with deferred rental obligations about to kick in.. With lease protections about to come to an end this week I think the economic pain is about to get a loss worse right at the time the pandemic case numbers also near their peak.

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  2. Graeme Day

    Mark, a lot of noise and unfortunately nothing constructive here.

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  3. Mark Fletcher

    Graeme, it speaks to the real experience many newsagents have told me of and that I have seen for myself. This post did not set out to solve anything. I wrote it so the experiences are on the record.

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