By Oliver Lees
As COVID-19 lockdown measures have changed the way we live our lives, small businesses in the Macedon Ranges have had to digitally adapt to survive.
Victoria has entered lockdown five times over the past 18 months, closing non-essential businesses.
Business Kyneton president Kate Fairley said businesses in the shire have had no option but to pivot their businesses online to remain trading.
“The general consensus in the business community is that everyone’s been really hit hard, and people also have to juggle responsibilities like home-schooling on top of their work,” Ms Fairley said.
“I have noticed the businesses that seem most resilient through this period are the ones that are being more active in their online engagement.
“It’s about letting customers know what services are still available, making it as easy as possible to still engage with the business and updating trading hours.
“It’s just so important to have social media, if you’re not on social media then you’re likely struggling big time.”
For Alice in Fabricland owner Fiona Bloombill, whose fabric and yarn business on High Street in Kyneton would usually attract walk-ins, the pandemic has forced her to get creative to keep her customers engaged.
“We’ve started putting together yarn kits so people can make jumpers at home, they’ve become really popular,” Ms Bloombill said.
“I always knew social media was important, but now it is an absolute necessity. You can’t have small business nowadays without social media.
“I structure my day around taking pictures online and making sure every item we get in the store is put on our website.
“A lot of people message us directly through social media as well, they don’t call.”
But lockdown restrictions have affected each industry differently, Ms Fairley said.
“For example the fitness industry, a lot of that is dependent on in-person attendance and memberships,” she said.
“It’s not just an immediate impact, but it’s an ongoing problem because they need to schedule for the future.”
Louise Moss from Change It Up Training in Macedon said she and her business partner, Kelly Nicholas, decided immediately to throw their resources into establishing a better online presence.
“Before COVID-19 all we had was a website, but we decided pretty quickly we’re in this for the long haul and need to change,” Ms Moss said.
“Now we’ve created an entire portal that allows you to sign up to be an online member. Customers can log on, and access a library of more than 120 videos of training content.
Ms Moss said greater social media interaction has helped to spread the businesses client base as far as Queensland.
“I have a love-hate relationship with social media, but most of our marketing comes through there,” she said.
“It’s just about getting those clicks through. If you don’t adapt, you’ll be left behind.”