Free online stores for retailers

02 April, 2020 by Brydie Allen

It’s been an incredibly tough slog for many Australian businesses lately. 

As a nation, we’ve endured drought, bushfires, floods, and now a global pandemic. For businesses hit hard by any of the above, recovery is hard and made worse by the compounding of the other unprecedented events. 

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Throughout the bushfire crisis, we heard of some great efforts from the industry to come together and support each other. This included the #GoWithEmptyEskys campaign, which as we reported earlier this year, asks tourists to come back and support fire-affected communities when it is safe to do so. The campaign fit into a viral movement, encouraging Australians to support local businesses and tourism and help the country recover from one of our most devastating summers. 

Unfortunately now in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions and guidelines have meant that the campaign’s major message can’t be applied. However, communities still need the help, so rather than the campaign being put on hold, it has switched focus.

One of the driving forces behind the #GoWithEmptyEskys campaign is BDE in the South Coast of NSW for Independent Liquor Group (ILG), Gareth Southam. He said they’ve changed the message behind the campaign and are now telling people to stay at home, while still supporting businesses that need it. 

“A lot of the businesses down here were affected for their key trade period. Pretty much all the holiday trade from December New Year’s right through the school holidays was completely wiped out along with a lot of other people’s homes and such due to the fires,” Southam said. 

“We just wanted to encourage people to get down here but obviously all that’s changed in the space of six weeks, so now we’re actually telling people not to come down. It’s quite ironic how things change. 

“But we thought, ‘well, these businesses still need support’… so that’s why we created the Go With Empty Eskys community online store where they can actually go and create an online store for free if they didn’t have one or wanted to expose themselves to another broader market Australia wide.”

The community online store can be accessed here, and is now ready for businesses to get set up and for customers to start buying. It’s free to set up an online store and there’s even an included program to help business owners learn how to create good content and manage their online stores, courtesy of the site’s creator, Ross Carter. 

Any retailer that can provide takeaway or delivery services is welcome, whether it be offering food and drink to the local community or a nationwide supply of products via the post. There’s a PayPal gateway to take payment through the website, or a business can enter their contact details for people to pay over the phone or in person for local takeaway orders. 

Southam said: “Anything really that can be sold, because obviously the post is still operational, so they might as well take advantage of it. And obviously our liquor stores can get on there and sell through their own network as well.”

“One of our major reasons [for the campaign] is to get people connected with the businesses that can still offer services, because some people might be thinking everything is closed and nothing’s really open. But we can re educate people, and engage them without breaking the rules.”

The new direction for the #GoWithEmptyEskys campaign has still retained its original ideal, to support businesses and communities that need it most through the hardest of times. 

The whole liquor and hospitality industry is huge and is known for its great sense of community. We saw efforts that proved this throughout the bushfire crisis, and continue to see them now through this latest challenge. And all the while, there’s the collective push to get through to the other side. 

“The big picture isn’t really now, it’s the other side of this. Right now, we all know it’s here and we know it’s spreading and they’re doing the best they can to stop it. But on the other side of it, we’ve got to make sure that people are going to still be there to earn money and have a bit of a lifestyle again,” Southam said. 

#GoWithEmptyEskys and their online site can be a tool to help get through to this other side, especially for bushfire affected communities that usually rely on tourism. With Easter just next week, it’s set to be another holiday period of disappointing sales.

Easter was supposed to be the comeback for a lot of communities on the South Coast, with Southam describing lots of events planned to draw tourists while delivering a boost for local businesses. Without these physical events, the next best thing is to enable the spirit of these movements in the virtual world. 

Southam said that his member stores are: “Doing the best they can and all behaving themselves… it is what it is, but if we can get the word out, hopefully it will pay off and we can get to the other side.”

You can find the #GoWithEmptyEskys campaign at the below locations:

If you’re a retailer and would like to share how you’re adapting to get through these challenging times, I would love to hear from you. Please reach out to Brydie Allen on ballen@intermedia.com.au