As “irresponsible” people refused to follow the health advice to stay at home, and the number of new cases surged, the government ordered pubs, clubs, gyms, restaurants and cinemas to close indefinitely, leaving many uncertain about their financial future.
And while business districts emptied out as desk-bound employees worked from home, those whose livelihoods depend on being in the public space have pleaded with others to help keep them in jobs.
Sydney shop owner Alix Crockett’s family-run homewares and clothing store, Live This, has been operating successfully in Randwick’s bustling ‘The Spot’ since 2005, but in recent weeks, a noticeable decline in foot traffic has caused serious concern about the business’ future.
“Each day it seems a lack of confidence or fear of the unknown among the public has shown in the declining numbers we see coming through the door,” Crockett tells WHO.
“If we don’t have sales coming through the door, we don’t have money for the wages. We also don’t have money for our rent, which is already ridiculously high.”
Since speaking to WHO, Crockett – who runs the business with her fiancé Luke Kendall – made the incredibly tough decision to close her storefront to protect the health of her staff and customers.
But she's turning her attentions to an online store in the meantime, and hoping a new ‘pay online and pick up’ initiative will stabilise sales and work within social-distancing guidelines by allowing people to order and pay online, then collect their purchases outside the shop premises.
“We can run their purchases out to them,” explains Crockett, who has a son, Beau, 4, with Kendall.
“We feel it’s efficient and with minimal human contact, and there’s no delivery fee. You can even support without paying a cent by sharing, liking, and talking about your favourite small businesses with others. Every bit helps!”
In addition to considering the health of workers and shoppers, Crockett says the usually buzzing area is now a ghost town, which also made it near impossible to stay open.
“It’s predominantly restaurants, cafes, The Ritz cinema, which usually brings a lot of customers … now restaurants and cinemas are closed, there’s no point us being open if our whole area is shut down.”
It’s a similar story for Brisbane interior designer Alexa Nice, who opened her boutique a year ago in Fortitude Valley.
"The retail component of the business relies on 80 per cent face-to-face customers, with online only contributing 20 per cent,” Nice, 36, tells WHO, adding that foot traffic has gone from quiet to “almost non-existent” in recent weeks.
“As you can imagine, we are currently suffering a huge loss in revenue. I have had to make cutbacks on all casuals and as a result, I am taking on all of the hours as well as juggling being a single parent.”
The retail business owner, who has a 3-year-old daughter, Coco, says there are simple ways that people can still support local and small businesses, even in these uncertain times.
“If you can buy from small businesses rather than a large corporation, do so,” Nice says.
“Shop online, buy gift cards that are valid for 12 months, be active on social media by liking, sharing and commenting.”
To read to full story, pick up WHO magazine, on sale now.