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Byron Shire
June 20, 2021

Tale of business trading on COVID-19 times

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While Byron Bay clearly had extra people on the streets last week, there were other areas of the Far North Coast that also swelled in numbers because of the school holidays.

President of the Ballina Chamber of Commerce Glenn Costello said that the first week of NSW School holidays saw Ballina Shire very busy – the good weather helped.

‘Some businesses reported very good business with all having COVID0-19 restrictions in place. Ballina CBD, Lennox Head and Alstonville saw good numbers as well and some saying the numbers were similar to the old days.

‘With Ballina having the second busiest Airport in NSW, we saw a good number arriving from Sydney, Canberra, Newcastle and Melbourne, although Melbourne flights have been stopped as of Saturday night.

Mr Costello said business owners are grateful that Ballina Shire Council had the River Street upgrade finished in November/December last year. ‘It means it has that the impressive main Street attracts plenty of visitors.’

Businesses prepared for holidays

The Bangalow Chamber of Commerce reported that there were plenty more people in town and the businesses were prepared. ’It was a cautiously optimistic vibe that we were happy to see,’ said James Bennett from the Chamber. ‘While business is coming back to usual, there remains an unequal distribution compared to pre-COVID times.’

It was a mixed bag in Brunswick Heads being different from business to business, from day to day, and from morning to afternoon. ‘One cafe is even different from another, and one retail business is different from another,’ said Brunswick Chamber Treasurer Kim Rosen.

‘I have been out and about in Bruns every day this week,’ she said. ‘It looks like its quite busy in the CBD block from10am-2pm but by 3pm the town has gone dead. That’s because most businesses seem to be trading with reduced hours, presumably to cut down on staff costs. One retailer was telling me today that people are not buying up big.

More people doesn’t mean more profit

Peter Winter from Bruns News said there are definitely more people about in these school holidays, but they are only buying trinkets. ‘They are just not spending. But it doesn’t surprise me. Unfortunately, theft has skyrocketed in the last fortnight. I can’t see us making a profit this side of Christmas.’

 Gary Deller from the Happy Dolphin Cafe said it’s been busier than he thought it would be for the July school holidays. ‘But it’s still not enough to be sustainable without JobKeeper. Without it, I’d be closed. I just don’t know what will happen.’

Michelle Begg from Print Rescue said last week they were flat out printing border passes this week. ‘I was especially busy on Friday, however, that on its own, it will not pay the bills. The federal government help has been a business saver, and while we are busier now than April or June, I worry for the unknown from October once the help ceases. The town has been very busy, there have been a lot of grey nomads waiting for the border to open as well as school holidays.’

Mrs Begg said a thing to remember is that while you may see people queuing, but it’s because the cafes and restaurants are not seating people to capacity. ‘Inside the bakery, there are only three people allowed at a time – so I would question whether they are making the huge profits it would appear.

Lennox Head was busy as well with Chamber president Zain Peart saying there appeared to be a lot more people in town.

A town like its old self

President, Byron Bay Chamber of Commerce Todd Sotheren said Byron definitely has been looking a lot more like its old self, over the past couple of weeks. ‘It’d definitely up on what would normally be our “off-season” in Winter. Understandably, people from further south – particularly Sydney, who have been cooped up in lockdown for months now – have flocked here, with restrictions easing.

Mr Sotheren said Byron is particularly attractive given that most people are travelling by road, rather than flight at the moment. Byron is about as far north as you can go, before running into the closed QLD border.’

Jenelle Stanford from the Mullum Newsagency is also the president of the Mullumbimby Chamber of Commerce, Jenelle said the recent 80 million lotto win had helped increase the number at her business but there were also a lot of holidaymakers. ‘It’s sort of back to normal. There are no parking places. We’re all doing the social distancing and abiding by the amount of people you could have in the shops.’

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  1. When the tide comes in today, the waves will be higher than usual and cause erosion on our beaches. There will be new waves and there will be a swell higher that normal. Things are a-changing. We are living in the time of bigger expectations of our leaders and new normals. There is apprehension floating all around us with little cohesion. We need to dig in for the long term. So don’t get tired.


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