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Three ways to get through this shock lockdown

Pitcher Partners partner Mark Harrison advises Victorian fashion retailers to communicate, think nationally and reconsider distribution mechanisms to survive lockdown.

Heavier restrictions in Victoria are forcing fashion retailers to close their brick-and-mortar stores again and immediate communications with customers and suppliers are crucial.

Staff numbers at Victoria’s distribution warehouses are being reduced to two-thirds of their workforce, affecting supply chains and product distribution.

It’s a difficult time for businesses affected, especially as not so long ago there was a buoyant feeling as things were starting to open up after the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But it’s important for retailers to remember that they’ve been here before. They know the playbook.

They did this in the first lockdown and this one is easier because they know the environment, they know what to do in response.

Last time it was national, this time it is localised to Victoria, so it’s a better scenario than the first lockdown. You’ve still got the rest of Australia to sell to.

You need to make sure that, particularly if you’re headquartered in Melbourne, you don’t get too Melbourne-centric.

You’ve got to deal with the here and now but you can’t ignore the rest of the market, subject to changes in those other markets.

That’s not to play down the financial impact the latest restrictions will have on some. But right now, most retailers will be on JobKeeper and have reduced rental agreements in place, so the cost of business is subsidised.

All regional businesses forced to close will be eligible for a $5000 grant, while for metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire businesses already under lockdown, a further $5000 grant is available.

Distribution shouldn’t be a problem for business owners with a robust online platform.

But there will be limitations to traditional in-store click and collect because of the limits to the number of people who can actually access your distribution points.

It reinforces that you need to have a distribution mechanism through online platforms, such as traditional post, rather than just relying on collection.

During the coming six weeks, meaningful communication with your suppliers and customer network will be as important as it’s ever been so keep the channels open.

You’ve really got to know who your customers are, and where your potential markets are, you can’t just shout out into the internet world and hope that people will find you.

If you’ve got a network of customers and a strong relationship through your online database and platforms, communications will help keep your business moving.

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