Small businesses in Port Stephens on the brink of collapse

FOR SALE: Tsunami Surfer store owner Simon Law is calling on locals to support Port Stephens businesses.
FOR SALE: Tsunami Surfer store owner Simon Law is calling on locals to support Port Stephens businesses.

It would come as no shock to anyone that the current COVID-19 lockdown is hurting small businesses in Port Stephens. In fact, many are on the brink of collapse, according to local operators.

And while the government has set out its plan to lifting some of the restrictions and opening up the state in mid-October, many business owners in Port Stephens are taking the news with some trepidation.

Simon Law has operated his Tsunami Surfer shop in the heart of the Nelson Bay CBD for nearly 20 years and says that unless they can boost sales over the Christmas-New Year period, his business could be lost to the town forever.

"This lockdown has impacted us financially far worse than last year, and for the first time in nearly 20 years we are seriously considering our future," Mr Law said. "Last year was tough but this time the closures have hit hard and we are calling on locals for support.

"For years small business in Nelson Bay has supported local charities, schools, sporting and community organisations through sponsorships and donations, we are now calling on the community to reciprocate that support.

"We want our regular customers to continue shopping online and if each person visited one other store that they may never have normally visited for a purchase, then it could go a long way towards keeping everyone open. We are counting on the goodwill of all Port residents."

Mr Law said that in order to remain solvent most businesses have been able to operate online via click and collect and home deliveries.

"Our shop doors may be closed but we have massive stock we need to move to make way for the summer wear. Our staff are working hard to promote sales through our website, Instagram and Facebook and we hope locals will respond, particularly with Christmas around the corner," he said.

Mr Law said that it was important that people continued to follow the COVID safe regulations and said he dreaded the thought of a positive COVID case once the stores reopened.

"What happens if one of our staff or customers is a close contact? We cannot afford to shut our doors again," he said.

SUPPORT: Nelson Bay business owners Tass Taxis and Kim Burbridge from earlier this year.

SUPPORT: Nelson Bay business owners Tass Taxis and Kim Burbridge from earlier this year.

Marcel Le Grange, owner of Sportspower at Salamander Bay Square, said there was a real fear he may have to shut his doors permanently if the lockdowns continued into the summer.

"We are still trading online through click and collect but competing against some of the big name brands is tough. We are relying on our loyal customers to stick with us to keep us financially viable."

Nelson Bay business owner Kim Burbridge, from Burbridge and Burke, said that they were keeping their heads above water through their online sales.

"We were fortunate that we went online the same time we opened our shop in Magnus Street 2.5 years ago. It has grown by about 20 per cent since the lockdown."

She was equally mindful of what lay in store once the lockdown ends.

"There are so many people still trying to get a vaccine shot but cannot because of lack of supply. And even before this outbreak we were struggling to get people to wear masks and register with the QR code, so it's scary to think what may happen when we have to ask customers to hand over their vaccination records."

Bay Living and Garden owner Tass Taxis is counting down the days to the end of the lockdown.

"I love what I do and can't wait to reopen my doors, but safety must always be a priority. We are trying to do online sales by appointment only, but it hasn't been very successful. It has been hard for many business owners physically and mentally," he said.

"I've told myself for my own mental health that if these lockdowns continue on and off next year I will be forced to close down, which would be a real shame."

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