Gundagai’s main street was abuzz as residents and businesses celebrated their release from lockdown on Saturday morning.
Statewide stay-at-home orders were put in place on August 14, after Sydney’s COVID Delta outbreak seeped into regional areas.
Acting on health advice, the State Government on Thursday deemed a large section of regional NSW safe to leave lockdown at 12.01am Saturday, so it was back to business for local retailers after many were forced to shut their doors while others could only trade to a limited capacity during the 27-day lockdown.
Operating under COVID-safe guidelines, main street businesses were overwhelmed by the support of customers with many staying open beyond their normal trading hours to keep up with demand.
“Someone described it as a bit like Snake Gully Cup weekend in the street this morning, it just has a really good vibe to it, there’s lots of people out and everyone’s so happy,” said Renee Lindley who had a busy morning at her store, Wren Store + Styling, on Saturday.
“I’ve had a lovely stream of customers all morning and I think people have just needed to get out and see other people and interact.
“The street has been bustling and everyone has been really lovely, even checking in just to say it’s great to see the store open again.”
While Renee took her business online during the lockdown, she said there is nothing like having the front door open at her Sheridan Street store.
“I have to say my customers have been very supportive. I did quite a few contactless local deliveries and posted a fair bit off to people, but there is nothing like being open,” she said.
Renee is confident things will improve for business, which has taken a huge hit right throughout the pandemic, as NSW strives for the 70 per cent double dose vaccination mark that will see the reopening of the state and an end to some lockdown measures.
“Absolutely, I think things will really start to improve,” Renee said.
“I just feel that, based on this morning, people need that social interaction, they are concerned that small businesses have done it really tough, and they want to support us. So, definitely, I think we’ll bounce back.”
Daisy’s Décor owner Sue Mills said it was wonderful to welcome back customers after having a very busy morning in both her shops on Saturday.
“Everyone was happy to see us open and it was really lovely to be open again,” Sue said.
Throughout the lockdown, Sue participated in the Shop Coota-Gundy promotion, run by the Cootamundra Development Corporation (CDC).
The initiative was open to businesses in the Cootamundra-Gundagai region who either had to close their doors and/or were experiencing significant downturn during lockdown.
Businesses promoted a voucher or package of items to sell on the CDC site. They allocated a number of tickets to the item, with the total value of ticket sales equalling the total value of the item. Once all tickets were sold, the CDC then drew the raffle live on their Facebook page.
“It was the perfect opportunity for people to support local businesses during the lockdown, it worked so well, and it was a boost to business,” Sue said.
“All the locals here in Gundagai, they jumped on board straight away.”
Bec Nicholls, owner of Fig & Co, was delighted to have the doors of her store open again, also enjoying a busy Saturday morning trade.
“Today has been amazing. I have had the most incredible local support,” Bec said.
“Obviously everyone was just wanting to be able to get out, but I think some people really just decided they were going to go out and buy something because they know it’s helping businesspeople, which is so lovely. We are blessed.”
Like Renee, Bec is optimistic that better times for business are now just around the corner.
“When Canberra opens up, I think that’s going to be really good for us as we’ll start to see those travellers back again. I often get people from Canberra who’ve come over for the day,” Bec said.
“And if we don’t go into lockdown again, I think this good momentum is going to flow on until Christmas and I think we’re going to be in for a big November/December.”
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said in many ways it has been the worst of times, but that the best of times “are on the way”, heralding the Reopening NSW roadmap, announced by the Premier on Thursday, as the pathway back to future prosperity.
“It’s been a difficult winter but it’s going to be an incredibly bright summer, and that is on the back of those high vaccination rates that the Premier and Deputy Premier have spoken to,” Mr Perrottet said on Thursday.
“That is our key to our future prosperity and the effort that people right across NSW have made has ensured we are able to release this roadmap which will open up NSW.
“Yes, it will be in a staged way, but it will provide businesses and workers and families right across the state the confidence to know that there is a bright future ahead.”
The Treasurer conceded that it has been a “very, very tough period of time”, with many NSW businesses having to close, leaving many without work.
“But we will get through this, and I think if you look at last year, the NSW economy went through a very difficult time, and many people lost work, but we recovered every single job. We came out of last year stronger than ever,” he said.
The NSW Government is currently working on an economic recovery plan which will be announced early October, prior to the opening up of the roadmap.
“That recovery will ensure that we don’t just bounce back, but that we come back stronger than ever before,” Mr Perrottet said.
“That’s what we achieved in the past, that’s what we will achieve in the future, and I think the roadmap and the work that the health team and the Deputy Premier has done alongside the Premier will ensure NSW is stronger as we move forward.”