Having initially offered 25 and 50 per cent rent relief for food and non-food related traders, respectively, Queen Victoria Market (QVM) management was quick to respond with 100 per cent relief for all traders last month as the threat of COVID-19 spread.
As the largest concentration of independent small businesses in Australia, the QVM and its 700-plus day and night market traders have been significantly impacted by COVID19, which comes in addition to the impact of bushfires on tourism and retail earlier this year.
Progressive travel restrictions have significantly impacted around half the market’s traders who sell specialty goods and are heavily reliant on tourism, while further government restrictions resulted in many planned market events being postponed or cancelled.
The restrictions have also led to most non-food traders being mandated to close, while hospitality traders are restricted to takeaway and delivery services.
Since mid-March, the market has suffered a further drop in visitation to its fresh produce and hospitality offerings, which remain open, largely attributed to the absence of workers and visitors to the CBD.
QVM CEO Stan Liacos said that management was focused on doing what it could to preserve the market and support traders through what were unprecedented times.
“Queen Victoria Market remains open and serving the community with fresh produce and other essentials, as it has done for 142 years,” Mr Liacos said.
“The 700-plus day and night market traders operating small businesses at the market have been hit hard by COVID-19 and QVM management has been working hard to support our traders during this challenging time to help their businesses survive and to ensure the future viability of the market.”
“The full rent relief that we have provided to all traders means that our food-related traders can continue to operate during this downturn and will ensure that we can bounce back to our former glory when the market can fully re-open.”
“The Market and our traders need the support of the local community now more than ever, so I urge people to support local, small, family-run businesses like those at the market. The great thing about the market is that we are in a fresh, open air environment and we have introduced enhanced health and safety measures to protect customers, traders and staff.”
Some of the key actions taken by QVM management and the City of Melbourne in response to COVID-19 include:
- 100 per cent rent relief for all traders from April 1, for an initial three months, building on an initial Trader Support Package announced on March 20.
- Agreement reached with box hire operators to suspend storage fees for three months for general merchandise traders currently not trading in line with government restrictions.
- Regular updates to traders about advice from relevant authorities and government support for small businesses that may be relevant.
- One-hour free parking in the market car park introduced on all market days for customers who enter the car park after 9am, in addition to the existing free early bird shopping parking from 6am to 9am will also remain in place.
- New pre-order and pickup service from April 14 (read more on page 15).
- Continued focus on marketing and promotion to raise awareness that the market is open and a safe place to shop.
Mr Liacos said that management had also enhanced its “already extensive” cleaning practices by providing additional staff to conduct regular cleaning and sanitising of high traffic surfaces. It has also increased signage around the market, including restrooms and high traffic areas, while hand sanitiser units have been installed in many locations around the market.
Access has also been limited to specific entry/exit points to control the number of customers entering the Meat and Fish Hall and Dairy Hall to ensure government restrictions aren’t exceeded •