Offering practical advice on business planning, finance, health and wellbeing, QICRE’s recent series of interactive online workshops delivered a much-needed shot of support to Victorian retail partners as they prepare to move closer to Covid-normal.
With the state's strict Stage 4 restrictions now behind them, small business owners from QICRE centres across Victoria have taken part in a series of practical online workshops hosted by the shopping centre management teams.
Developed in consultation with independent retail specialist Retail Capabilities, the workshops were designed to provide businesses with the information and tools required to help leverage available support measures and to get them prepared them for reopening.
Steve Edgerton, Portfolio General Manager, explained: “When the Victorian Government announced the Stage 4 lockdown in August, we immediately began researching practical support initiatives for those of our Victorian retailers only able to access customers through online channels. These workshops were our way of providing tangible and practical help for our retailers at a time when they needed it most.”
Practical in their fundamentals, the workshops were built around feedback received from retailers and centre managers in QICRE’s Victorian centres. Presenters focused on offering help and advice to retailers unable to trade in their physical stores during lockdown, providing clarity around the proposed new standards required for trade going forward. The concept clearly resonated, with Edgerton reporting that uptake for the workshops was such that an additional date was scheduled to accommodate the numbers.
Delivered via Zoom, each session incorporated three main channels of support. The first was clear, practical advice about eligibility for government support packages and how to apply for any available funding, with a government representative also attending the workshops. The second point incorporated advice on creating a business plan for managing in the immediate term getting prepared to adapt when restrictions lift further; while the third element focused on health and wellbeing, including tips on identifying symptoms of stress as well as information on the various support services provided by the government to address these issues.
Perhaps most importantly, the workshops proved a success in helping retail partners to feel less isolated and more connected. “Many of our retailers were saying they felt lonely,” Edgerton explains. “Those who participated in the workshop came from different centres in different locations and would never typically have an opportunity to converse and connect. Naturally, a cafe owner in Epping and a cafe owner in Ringwood would have a lot in common; the same worries and concerns. The workshops provided an opportunity for retailers to connect and feel understood by peers who knew exactly what they were going through.”
Jamie Medved, from giftware store Retreat at Pacific Werribee, attended the workshop and said he found the experience beneficial, stating that it was “refreshing” to have a forum in which to “open up and talk about things I wouldn’t necessarily table.”
Likewise, Joel Pearce from F45 Training at Watergardens reported the experience to be both informative and beneficial: “[It] was a fantastic initiative and further [demonstrates] QIC's approach to supporting their retailers during the toughest times possible.” He added: “Although many retailers would have been very close to a lot of the content provided, many also weren't. For them, the sessions could be a game-changer; the difference between their businesses surviving the crisis or not. The ability to share experiences and understand where other retailers are at is just so important – we're all in this together.”
In encouraging news for Edgerton and the team behind the workshops, more than 100 SME retailers participated in the sessions, which took place over four days.
Learn more about how our retail partners are adapting to Covid restrictions here.