Business prepares for jobkeeper changes

Virginia Robinson said her store Inside Out has fared well through Covid-19, changes to JobKeeper and the recent repaving in front of the shop in Tumut’s Wynyard St.

The government’s JobKeeper program is starting to scale back, with the first changes starting September 28. Many Tumut business owners say they’ll be ok without the payments, though some in the fashion and travel industries have suffered from a lack of events.

The $1500 fortnightly payment will drop to $1200 for full time workers and $750 for those who worked less than 80 hours in the 28 day period before either March 1 2020 or July 1 2020.

David Prosser at Tumut Fishing Camping & Outdoor Store has maintained a sunny outlook since the pandemic. He said he’s not troubled by the changes coming for JobKeeper. His main challenge has been sourcing cast iron cookware which just isn’t being shipped from Asia. 

“There’s just no boats,” he said. 

“Otherwise, we’re doing really well. Realistically, you look in town and there will be some people on JobKeeper, but it won’t be like in the cities.”

Mr Prosser said he didn’t think his store would suffer after the payments are reduced or removed. They suffered a bad month in April when Easter fishing and camping was virtually outlawed, but otherwise business has remained steady.

“Business is going really well. Once the big [NSW-Vic] border opens, it’ll be interesting. It’s a can of worms.”

Mr Prosser said he’s sold gear to a number of Gray Nomads who have weathered the pandemic away from their homes in Victoria, with reports of many seniors spending the winter in far north Queensland.

“There will be places that do really well out of it,” he said. “I wasn’t sure how we’d do, but we’ve done ok.

“We’ve done ok out of Snowy 2.0, too.”

Mr Prosser said he had compassion for some Snowy 2.0 workers on swing shifts who haven’t been able to travel home to visit their families. Instead, many have been spending time in the Snowy Valleys or on the south coast when they have time off.

“They can’t go home,” he said. “They come in looking for stuff, because they didn’t bring their gear when they came across.”

Virginia Robinson at Inside Out Homestore said she’s also found it hard to keep cast iron cookware and pizza stones on her shelves, with limited stock coming from China.

“We’ve had very good community support all through this time,” she said. “I can’t complain about anything.”

With more people spending time at home, stores like Inside Out have seen a rush on cooking items. Mrs Robinson said they’ve been selling cast iron ovens, pizza stones, proving baskets and sourdough starter as families start experimenting with baking their own bread. 

She said the upside of the pandemic has been that more shoppers seem to be spending their money locally.

“People have been more reluctant to go elsewhere,” she said. “I actually think the locals have rediscovered what the area has to offer.”

Mrs Robinson said she wasn’t sure what to expect for Christmas, as supplies are hard to source from overseas and families will likely be having smaller parties and gift-giving expectations this year.

“We’ve been really lucky, but it has been particularly hard for fashion, because people aren’t going anywhere,” she said. 

Adding pressure to the supply chain, Mrs Robinson said many of the Australian-made products that she and Bruce had started to carry are made in Victoria, where there’s less manufacturing taking place during Covid lockdowns. Suppliers also purchased less this year, with smaller orders last March as the pandemic began now resulting in low levels of some types of stock.

“They didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Mrs Robinson. 

September has been a slower month for Inside Out, and Mrs Robinson said it was likely a psychological response as people anticipate the reduction in government payments. 

Nevertheless, she said her business would survive the transition and was grateful to be part of the Tumut business community.