In March 2020, Australia changed. COVID-19 put a halt to the way we operate. International borders were closed, state borders were closed, entire industries were shut down overnight and other industries were brought to a standstill due to the population being urged to stay at home. You all know this as you have lived through it.
The JAA wanted to know how your business has fared in this extraordinary time. So, we have undertaken two surveys of our members to understand the impact that COVID-19 has had on our industry. The first survey was undertaken at the end of March. It focused on the main concerns of our members at the present time and the assistance that the JAA could provide. The main concerns were around health and the risk to oneself, family or staff being diagnosed with COVID-19.
Cashflow to pay rent, staff and ongoing expenses was a major concern, as well as the lack of customers and the length of restrictions that would impact the jewellery industry. Of course, the economic impact on the survival of the business was on everyone’s mind. In terms of requiring immediate assistance, the majority of respondents named financial relief through rent and wages, loan options and tax exemptions. Understanding employee entitlements during a pandemic was also top priority.
Given the overwhelming amount of information circulating, as well as the unknown outcomes of the situation, it was not surprising to learn that 78% of respondents reported that their employee’s mental health, as well as their own, was being adversely affected. Our follow up survey in June reported that this number had decreased to 47%. A testament to the actions taken by the government.
When it came to navigating employees’ pay and leave entitlements, 59% of respondents reported that they were aware and could manage, with 28% saying they felt at the present time they had not been able to reach out to anyone for advice or assistance. The remaining 72% stated that they received advice from their accountant, landlord, bank, lawyer, HR adviser, as well as government bodies.
The JAA was quick to act in response to COVID, assisting members with phone calls and emails relating to employer obligations in standing down staff, conditions in which a business may temporarily close, as well as rental relief questions. Further to this, over a period of two months the JAA has sent its members a variety of support information covering hygiene and safety practices within a business, rental reduction templates, mental health resources, JobKeeper and other financial support options available from State and Territory governments.
As well as information related to pivoting a business through marketing and productivity and free industry resources released as a result of the pandemic. Our follow up survey, conducted at the end of June, demonstrated that most businesses had re-opened or never closed, or now operate with restricted trading hours or by appointment only.
Those that have not reopened are located in high tourist precincts or areas in which customers had not yet returned, such as CBD locations. Since April, 87% of survey respondents reported a decrease in revenue between 21%-100%, with 21-40% the highest reported bracket. Furthermore, 69% expect revenue to remain the same or increase in the coming months. Sixteen percent of respondents reported that they had not been able to access rental relief and 13% expect to lay off casual staff in the coming months when JobKeeper ends.
In a drastically changing business environment, innovations are essential. Our member’s survey showed that the most common reaction was to focus on e-commerce channels, by either opening a new website or expanding an existing one. Close behind this was expanding social media presence.
This was equally followed by increased digital advertising and promotions, moving or expanding into new markets and collaborating with other businesses. Eleven percent of respondents reported that they have made no changes. The JAA is working very closely with members and industry bodies to ensure it brings benefits to its members and the wider industry during this difficult time. Work has begun to engage with government and enhance member offering, which will only continue as we work towards a brighter industry.