Northern beaches: COVID impacted businesses close down

CLOSED: Some of the shops that have closed down in Manly during the past 12 months. Pictures: Geoff Jones
CLOSED: Some of the shops that have closed down in Manly during the past 12 months. Pictures: Geoff Jones

IN a 'normal' year Manly would be heaving with tourists. For many visitors, this beachside suburb is the gateway to the northern beaches ... but this past 12 months has been anything but normal.

During 2019, Manly welcomed nearly 2.8 million international and domestic visitors. This was an increase of 16.4 per cent on the numbers who flocked there in 2018.

These days, a stroll through Manly and The Corso reveals many closed and 'for lease' shops. In the past 12 months, the suburb has lost: Woolworths Metro, Hamlets Pies, Manly Italian, Yogurtland, Kidstuff, The Corso Bakehouse and Stoke Beach House, just to name a few. Some have told their customers they're closed until further notice due to COVID, others are gone for good.

Manly Business Chamber executive officer Chantelle Hoare said the lack of visitors, especially international ones, has been very difficult.

"It just has been a really terrible time and the fact that we had that COVID lockdown over the Christmas period has just made it so much more difficult for those businesses," she said.

A three-month delay on hardship grants for Beaches businesses has further compounded their struggles. "It's absolutely appalling that it was delayed, it's very clear that if it's a grant that's supposed to be supporting those businesses that that's really disappointing that that took so long," Ms Hoare said.

The end of JobKeeper has added to their woes. "Those businesses that were already struggling, probably that was was just propping them up," she said.

Ms Hoare praised Manly MP James Griffin, Northern Beaches Council and property owners for their commitment to Manly since COVID hit.

"Everyone is just working so hard to make sure that those small businesses are supported and we are very confident that we're coming out of that and that numbers are increasing in Manly," she said.

The chamber has also met with Small Business Commissioner Chris Lamont, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet and Finance, and Small Business Minister Damien Tudehope to highlight how Manly businesses can be supported.

"The communication is absolutely there with those people who are making the decisions," Ms Hoare said. A number of initiatives have also gone towards helping Manly businesses, including the Tourism Taskforce and Market Lane Live.

Ms Hoare said the chamber has been helping businesses since COVID-19 in a wide range of ways and has provided an extensive list, see end of story.

How you can help

Use your Dine & Discover vouchers in Manly - there are 129 dine options and eight discover options.

"Whilst tourist numbers are down, Manly is open for business with stores and staff excited to welcome visitors," Ms Hoare said. "Enjoy what Manly has to offer - brunch beachside to sundowners on the harbour and everything in between."

Warringah's businesses

TOUGH TIMES: Warringah Chamber of Commerce president Samantha King says some business owners are on a knife's edge. Pictures: Geoff Jones

TOUGH TIMES: Warringah Chamber of Commerce president Samantha King says some business owners are on a knife's edge. Pictures: Geoff Jones

"THERE'S so many businesses that are really on a knife's edge," Warringah Chamber of Commerce president Samantha King says.

"I'm hearing of people who have borrowed off their elderly parents to keep their businesses open and they're struggling to work out the next step and they've had to let staff go. One lady borrowed from her elderly parents twice to pay wages."

While there are some areas where businesses are busy, Ms King said whether they're financially doing well is another matter.

"When you've got businesses that are doing double Dine & Discover vouchers, that's scary," she said.

Ms King said a lack of major infrastructure projects in Warringah is also a concern. However, she said some businesses are trying new things with much success and others, such as the growing number of breweries in Brookvale, are banding together to create a festival later this year to draw in the crowds.

Peninsula businesses

For those further north in the Beaches, there's a lot of optimism, Peninsula Business president Chris Kavanagh said of feedback at the recent members meeting.

"Everyone was really quite optimistic, there was no negative talk, people seemed to be doing OK, in fact everyone's really busy at the moment," he said.

"The number of vacancies in Newport have almost vanished, I think there's one or two empty shops now but that had a very high rate. Mona Vale now, you'd be struggling to find a place to set up business."

While the vacancy rate in Avalon is also low, the large COVID testing site in the car park off Bowling Green Lane is hurting businesses as parking was already at a premium.

Manly Business Chamber's helping hand

The chamber's executive officer Chantelle Hoare said there's been a number of ways they've been helping businesses survive since COVID-19 hit, including:

  • Fast tracking the Dine & Discover voucher to the northern beaches
  • Representing the business community at Manly MP James Griffin's Manly Business Recovery Roundtable, where the chamber provided insights on what support packages Manly's businesses needed directly to the NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet and Finance and Small Business Minister Damien Tudehope
  • Actively championing support for the local business community in various media outlets
  • Waiving Manly Business Chamber membership fees
  • Regular newsletters regarding grants, etc for financial support
  • Liaising on behalf of specific members with council/NSW Government regarding unique challenges for inclusion to receive grants, etc.
  • Promoting council's dedicated Business Support Service, offering access to support and information either face to face or online
  • Maintaining pressure on the delivery of the Hardship Grants
  • Running events to support the mental health of business owners
  • Proposing increasing and on-going discounts for outdoor dining/fire and safety fees to council
  • Liaising with council for improved parking to support takeaway/deliveries throughout COVID
  • Support and promotion of Market Lane live to create activation in Manly
  • Continued support for beatification of Manly to encourage increasing visitation
  • Working with council to beautify vacant shop windows
  • Focusing on reducing council rates for property owners, to release financial pressures on both landlords and tenants
  • Promotion of Taste of the Beaches events that are running in Manly across social media
  • Creation of a leasing kit and data collection to assist real estate agencies in the promotion of the precinct for potential incoming tenants.
  • Monitoring vacancy rates and tenancy turnovers with data and mapping for record keeping

Ms Hoare said they have been working with Manly MP James Griffin's Tourism Taskforce which included leveraging Destination NSW's Love NSW program for Manly with the following:

  • Publicity activity, including story ideas and media/influencer famils drawing on relevant experiences in 213 Ways to Reboot 2020 in NSW and Take a Sydney Playcay (encouraging Sydneysiders to take a staycation)
  • Promotion of Manly talent, hero experiences, product and events in Destination NSW's media newsletter, Uncovered
  • A dedicated Sydney Playcay 'Manly' itinerary, now available on the consumer website, with Manly product and experiences also promoted in four of the other thematic itineraries
  • Manly experiences and product included in the summer holidays media pitch
  • Manly was listed as a featured destination on www.sydney.com/
  • Inclusion of Manly in Destination NSW's recent partnership with Aquabumps focused on Greater Sydney, with amplification of the final shoot to commence shortly
  • Manly destination and experiences feature regularly in Sydney's Always On social channels.

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