By Katie Johnson
After another hard year of lockdowns, CBD traders are urging Melburnians to support small businesses by shopping locally this Christmas.
City retailers have been stocking up with locally made, Australian-made products that will help shoppers to avoid Australia Post delays at Christmas time.
Nic Poltronieri, who owns the 74-year-old Flinders St icon Hearn’s Hobbies, said that shopping locally was the best way to support Melbourne businesses that have been struggling for the better part of two years.
“Every dollar spent, every thank you, every sign of support, helps us get through these times and out the other side,” he said.
“There are a few residents but it hasn’t been as busy in the city, so we’ve adapted to doing deliveries, click and collect and designing our products locally.”
“My employees and I have been doing our best to support each other during this time but it’s tough.”
Degraves St icon Clementine’s, which has been selling Victorian-made homewares and gifts for a decade, is also ready to go for Christmas.
Owner Melanie Ashe was tentatively hopeful for the festive season and urged shoppers to get their shopping done early to avoid delays.
“Obviously the postal system is going to have a lot of issues so we’re encouraging people to shop early and be organised so they can have a nice, peaceful Christmas,” she said.
Ms Ashe said that it was crucial to keep morale high during the lockdowns and had done so through the support of local traders around her.
“I think we’ve managed to build a real community among ourselves, we’ve had to be really resilient and we all talk to each other and share ideas,” Ms Ashe said.
“You’re allowed to feet flat for a little while and then we help each other to get back to where we should be again.”
Handmade Italian stationary store Il Papiro, also in Degraves St, was also getting ready for the Christmas season.
Owner Romina Beltram already had her Christmas stock in store for click and collect and hopefully, one day soon, to sell in person once more.
“It’s been up and down, but businesses like ours are a real passion business, so there’s something more that spurs you along and you dig a bit deeper to make it work,” Ms Beltram said.
“That’s what we’ve been doing for the past 12 months – making it work.”
Ms Beltram said that many traders were “nervous” for the Christmas period as they didn’t know what the restrictions would be, but they were still holding out hope.
“It’s a different set of circumstances and we just don’t know how the public is going to react, even though city chopping is probably the safest way to shop as it’s open air, small shops,” Ms Beltram said.
“But we all have our fingers crossed.”
Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the city’s traders had endured so much during the past 18 months, so the best Christmas gift Melburnians could give this year was one of support to small business owners.
“If there was ever a year to buy local, this is it,” the Lord Mayor said.
Speaking on September 15, Cr Capp said that the City of Melbourne was putting the “finishing tinsel” on its Christmas Festival plans, which will run from November 27 to Christmas Day.
“I’m very much looking forward to hearing the state government’s roadmap out of lockdown this weekend, so the council and our city can start preparing to reopen with a bang,” the Lord Mayor said.
“We want to bring the buzz back with baubles on top, and we’re looking at how we can help traders to make this a season to remember.” •