Melbourne retailers vigilant during lockdown

09 July, 2020 by Brydie Allen

After recent spikes in new COVID-19 cases in Victoria, Premier Daniel Andrews this week made the decision to lock down the Greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shire areas, pushing them back into Stage Three Restrictions as of midnight last night.

Like the first lockdown in late March, liquor retailers are considered essential, and so are able to trade as they were before the lockdown announcement, with social distancing, store density limits and an increased emphasis on hygiene and cleaning. 

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But this lockdown is widely being called different by those experiencing it, and with good reason. Most businesses adapted to the last lockdown, meaning there is more infrastructure for online and contactless shopping, there is a set end date after six weeks, people know more of what to expect and more about how to live their lives in lockdown. 

Although there’s still plenty of uncertainty and unease in Victoria, this slight increase in knowledge that the country didn’t have when it entered the last national lock down has seen retailers in the state continue almost as they were before the announcement. 

Retail Drinks Australia, which developed a range of retailing resources during the peak of COVID-19 that are available through their member portal, said the industry was armed with their previous experiences to get through this lockdown. 

“As was the case during the previous lockdown restrictions, all liquor retailers across metropolitan Melbourne and Victoria are permitted to remain open as an essential service to the community, for which Retail Drinks, our members and their customers are most grateful. We remain strongly committed to working proactively with representatives from all levels of government to help support the retail liquor industry as we have demonstrated in the past,” said Retail Drinks Acting CEO, Michael Waters.

“We take this opportunity to remind all liquor retailers to abide by social distancing measures wherever possible and practical, including having clear and distinct markings on the floors to ensure a safe distance is maintained between customers and encouraging the use of contactless payment methods such as ‘tap and go’ cards rather than cash.”

During the last lockdown, it was reported there was a spike in liquor purchasing caused by panic buying shoppers, concerned that liquor stores would shut. In response, Retail Drinks voluntarily rolled out purchase limits on alcohol, and many individual stores, banners and groups implemented their own limits on top of this as well. 

This time around, despite panic buying being evident again in staples such as toilet paper, liquor panic buying has not yet been noted, in Victoria or across the country. 

At Melbourne based McCoppins Food and Wine, they haven’t had to make any changes for the new lockdown regarding alcohol as yet, and continue the same safety protocols they had for the first lockdown to minimise risk. 

Will Davison from McCoppins Head Office said things have been: “a little bit busier but not crazy” and that in-store, there are: “no huge changes so far, it’s been less chaotic than when COVID-19 broke out in March.”

Because of this, neither Retail Drinks nor retailers themselves have implemented any purchase limits as yet, although everyone remains vigilant and ready to act according to the situation. 

Coles, for example, yesterday introduced purchase limits on 20 supermarket categories for stores within the locked down area. They said they would continue to monitor the situation and make changes as necessary. 

CEO Steven Cain said: “Our thoughts are with the many Victorians who will now be required to isolate at home, and we will continue to work with the state government to provide whatever assistance they need.”

Victorian Coles stores were also impacted late last month in a different way by COVID-19, after a cluster of cases was traced to the Laverton chilled distribution centre. The centre is working to get back up to capacity, with all staff being tested, multiple deep cleans of the site, and other precautionary measures introduced.

It remains to be seen what the impact of this lockdown will be on liquor retailers in Victoria, but whatever the case, they will be ready to tackle it head on.