Most Australian businesses, large, small and everything in-between, have had a whirlwind few months.
But few have been harder hit than those in the hospitality, tourism and retail sectors.
“Pre-COVID, (we had) over 260 customers, mostly cafes, restaurants and corporate locations and a little bit of retail. Now, with COVID, we have had a dramatic decline,” says Cindy Carpenter, the chair of Sydney-based Bread & Butter Project, Australia's first social enterprise artisan bakery.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ most recent retail sales numbers for March, cafes and restaurants saw a massive 22 per cent drop in the month amid social distancing restrictions to suppress the COVID-19 pandemic, in sharp contrast to the spike in supermarket sales amid panic buying and hoarding.
In turn, accommodation & food services, along with arts and recreation services, suffered the largest falls in employment and wages between March 14 and April 18, the ABS’s new weekly payroll data released last week showed.
However, The Bread & Butter Project, which trains people seeking refuge and asylum to become qualified bakers, quickly responded to the dramatic shifts in demand and began upping its distribution to supermarkets. This was helped by Westpac Foundation, which has worked closely with the social enterprise since 2014 and brought forward the second year of funding from their 2019 grant to help retain employees and the business’s pivot.
“We've been very fortunate to be able to ramp up our retail sales,” Carpenter says. “So mostly through Woolworths Metro, we're in 14 store locations and we've increased also through Harris Farm.”
So, with restrictions gradually easing after Australia’s better than expected initial suppression of the disease, what’s her advice for others looking into a slightly brighter future?
“Tight leadership team, clear priorities and plan for the future as well as the present, because… we're not going to be in this situation forever.”