Shopping local is a "critical component" for the future well-being and economic recovery of the Wingecarribee Shire.
This is the message of Southern Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Industry chair Steve Horton.
He said this included supporting local businesses that had moved to an online model adding that he expected a very different business landscape after the restrictions were lifted.
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Mr Horton said that with Mothers' Day just around the corner there was no better time than right now to support Highlands businesses.
"Supporting local is a critical component to recovery and for some businesses to stay alive," he said.
"We can continue to go online and support huge online companies or we can look for the local business and support them online.
"Look to the local gift shops and retail stores to purchase your gifts for Mum," he said.
"The amount of people I talk to that work in local retail and then buy from the large online stores is incredible.
"Don't people understand that you should at least support the person that is giving you a wage.
"We also need to change the belief that local businesses are more expensive than the alternatives, in some cases yes, however in many cases no."
Mr Horton said that many businesses in the shire relied heavily on the "visitor economy" which under lock down had nearly ceased.
He said this was something that we could battle with for some time to rebuild.
"However, with the limited population growth in this region we have to invite people into the area to enable our economy to continue and perhaps gain some ground," he said.
Mr Horton said that some businesses had acted quickly to change their business model to deal with the COVID-19 lockdown.
"Some examples of this are wineries moving to online sales and home delivery, cafes doing takeaway and home deliveries, some of our tour businesses are now doing home deliveries for the other businesses offering these service," he said.
"However, none of these options provides the level of income that has been lost through the COVID-19 shut down.
"It is difficult as the local market is small and becoming more and more competitive."
But the SHCCI is pulling out all the stops to help businesses make it through the tough times.
Mr Horton said the SHCCI was working with Illawarra Business Chamber and through its alliance program with Business NSW it was "supplying a large amount of information to our members and businesses across the Southern Highlands."
"This is being done by providing daily updates on COVID-19 funding and other assistance packages for business, which is updated daily by Business NSW and posted out."
The SHCCI held the first of its two weekly meetings that offer updates on various topics on April 30.
Mr Horton said this included an update on financial assistance, tenancy Code of Conduct and a presentation from NSW Health on Mental Health during the COVID-19 period.
"We will also be given an update on free business training currently being offered," he said.
Other things that the chamber movement is doing include:
- Practical measures to support business, including such as talking to councils about rates, and fees and charges, talking to government and big companies about payment terms - within five days if possible, and a video series on business response
- Pulling together case studies to highlight issues
- Looking at recovery
The SHCCI advice for small business includes:
- Talk to your accountant
- Get onto the right form of government assistance including Service NSW for 10,000 or the ATO for Jobkeeper
- Talk to banks
- Talk to landlords
- Go to the SHCCI Six Degrees FaceBook page
- Check out our websites businessaustralia.com and www.shchamber.com.au for updates on COVID-19 and to check out future Zoom information meetings.
Mr Horton said there were still opportunities for professional growth in the current environment. These include:
- Innovation - seeing great examples across the hardest hit sectors of hospitality and retail
- Leadership - facing challenges and bringing others with you
- Adaptation - much of the disruption isn't going away. How we adapt will be changed for good
Some of these changes will include moving online.
Mr Horton said this was happening in droves but the challenge now was "how do you stand out?"
"We will be covering this in future COVID-19 zoom meetings, and videos being developed by Illawarra Business Chamber," he said.
Mr Horton said other possible changes "for good" included flexibility of work such as working from home and multiple jobs.
"There will also be a need to make hard decisions sensitively," he said.
"Bosses want to keep their employees, but also need to survive."
Mr Horton said he expected there would also be a shift in sectors.
"Aged care is surging ahead but this will be temporary," he said.
"More retail will move online. How do we keep that locally?
"We need to be best practice and we need to be a community supports local."
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