Covid Victoria: outdoor retail plan knocked back by businesses

The Andrews government has offered $54.5m in grants to businesses to set up outdoor trading but many won’t be taking up the offer.

Melbourne businesses have laughed off an “impractical” push to get hairdressers and even beauty therapists trading outdoors.

Small Business Minister Jaala Pulford unveiled a series of grants – collectively worth $54.5m – to support businesses in setting up kerbside trading before the end of lockdown.

Hairdressers, beauty services, retail shops, dance studios and gyms will now be eligible to apply for vouchers, joining restaurants, cafes and bars in operating outdoors.

Australian Retailers Association chief Paul Zahra welcomed the scheme but said many businesses would not take up the offer.

“Limiting retail trade to the outdoors is impractical,” he said.

“We’re extremely disappointed that ‘non-essential’ or discretionary retailers can’t reopen earlier. These are businesses that operate indoors, in shopping centres or on high streets where it’s not workable to operate at the whim of the weather among other operational issues like fitting rooms to allow people to try clothes on.”

Sandy Chong, chief executive of the Australian Hairdressing Council, said it did not “make sense” to have hairdressers operating outdoors.

“You need to have basins that are available and ready to go,” she said.

“It’s really not worth the stress.”

Gry Tomte, who founded Melbourne-based Hud skin and body clinic, laughed off suggestions that the sector could go alfresco.

“That would be just impossible,” she said.

“It’s absolutely impractical. I can just imagine Brazilian waxes being carried out on the side of the road.”

Ms Pulford said the arrangement was about giving people more options, but said she thought businesses would continue to embrace outdoor trading even after vaccination targets were achieved.

“I imagine there’s probably some hair and beauty services that people wouldn’t mind having done in a marquee, and others that they’d probably prefer to do somewhere private,” she said.

“There’s a lot of thinking going on about what outdoors is going to be like, and how we can be more outdoors than we’ve been before.”

While hairdressing and personal care can open to five fully vaccinated customers from Friday, there are calls to expand indoor density limits and reopen the entire sector early.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said the government should match the NSW road map, which allowed indoor retail to reopen at 70 per cent.

It will reopen in Victoria at 80 per cent.

Meanwhile, almost 88.5 per cent of Victorians aged 16 and over have had at least one vaccination, while 66.7 per cent are now fully vaccinated.

Melbourne’s inner suburbs are lagging, and just 76.4 per cent of people aged over 15 have had one vaccination.

Victoria recorded 1903 local cases and seven more deaths on Monday.

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