Exclusive commentary from groups and independents.

The coronavirus pandemic is impacting all industries around the world but with tighter restrictions progressively being rolled out by the Australian government on society to prevent the spread of the virus, Appliance Retailer has contacted several retailers around the country to find out how it’s affecting their business, with both favourable and unfavourable outcomes to date, while the future remains uncertain.

BSR Group 

“We are all facing a raft of new challenges as the country looks to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We are taking our guidance from the actions and advice of the government and chief medical officer. We will continue to act in the best interests of our customers, franchisees, employees and their families.

“Whilst there are some disruptions to supply, business continues to operate as usual. At present, we are seeing good sales as consumers look to prepare themselves for what may be in store in the weeks ahead. It is difficult to anticipate the future demand, but we believe it will remain steady subject to product availability. Our focus will be to continue to work closely with our key supplier partners to ensure that we can meet consumer demand.”

BSR Group CEO, Graeme Cunningham 

Camera House 

“Camera House is a group of independent but aligned retailers. We are strong believers in the resilience of the Australian consumers and anticipate they will start behaving rationally and positively. We support each other and as part of our group, members have access to a truly efficient and agile operation that can move rapidly to adapt to the changing retail landscape.

“As independent operators we feel this much more than big corporates and the tangible impact is on 60 families and their livelihoods rather than just a blip in the share market. In the medium term, downturns in sectors like travel both domestically and internationally and large events and community gatherings (which are major catalysts for upgrading cameras) are likely to negatively impact our business for the foreseeable future.

“Our message to our member stores is to utilise the benefits of our group and make use of our warehousing and logistics management to risk mitigate inventory levels and cashflow. We have the largest specialty photographic goods warehouse in Australia and supply our stores with overnight delivery anywhere in the country.

“We will continue to drive our national website for both products and services. Our online printing solution is well placed to secure our customers sense of family as they find time to archive memories by printing their digital images. We’ve seen rough times before and Australians are nothing if not stoic in the face of adversity.”

Camera House general manager, Paul Rogers

Leading Edge Group 

“Our focus is on the health and wellbeing of our staff and members. We are very aware that the economy will be affected by COVID-19 and as such, retail trade is predicted to suffer as well. As a result, our team will also be focusing on helping our members through this challenging time.

“COVID-19 is providing a number of interesting challenges and opportunities for Leading Edge Group and our members. Our appliance stores have seen an increase in demand for chest freezers and bread makers for example, and our books, DVD and home entertainment packages are all enjoying a lift as people set about preparing for some self-imposed isolation at home. Our members are leveraging the buying power of our group through centralised purchasing, to create an advantage with suppliers, as stock availability becomes limited. We will continue to closely monitor and evaluate the COVID-19 situation to ensure we are maximising the support we offer our members.”

Leading Edge Group head of marketing, Lucy Miller

Prestige Appliances, New South Wales

“The Prestige Appliances Chatswood showroom is currently under renovation and temporarily closed to customers. Therefore, in-store foot traffic has not been a concern, but telephone services and online communication, which are still available, has experienced a downturn.”

Prestige Appliance owner, Franz Josef Rupp

Rawsons, South Australia

“We have seen a dramatic drop off in customers coming into stores over the last two to three weeks, which hasn’t been a total surprise. We have been busy providing a safe environment for our clients and staff by cleaning and disinfecting the showrooms every day and more regularly using cleaning products on surfaces contacted by clients and staff.

“I have mixed feelings for the months ahead. There will be some short-term pain for the appliance industry as the community withdraws into isolation. It will be about keeping in contact with our clients remotely, builder’s selections being handled by email, and clients offered wider online purchasing options. Like most I hope this does not last too long.

“One of the effects of this predicament is that people tend to cocoon in their own home environment, either voluntary through self-isolation. A consequence of this can be people feeling the need to create a better living environment for themselves and family. This may be reflected in the desire to renovate kitchen and alfresco areas at home leading to an upturn in appliance and BBQ purchases. However, I counter this with a reluctance to spend needlessly until the outcome of this crisis is known.”

Rawsons sales director, Jon Pysing

VideoPro, Queensland

“To date, we are up for the month of March – maybe consumers are panic buying TVs or preparing for self-isolation, but the concern is the coming months. The greatest concern is being forced to close our stores or warehouse, which will debilitate our ability to fulfill customer orders.

“Simple measures such as contactless delivery and contactless service is something we are implementing. At this point, we are monitoring the situation and following the guidance of the government. Ultimately, we will do anything we can to reduce the spread of the virus, whilst keeping people working. There are many industries that don’t have the privilege to work from home and retail is one of them.”

Videopro executive director, Cameron Douglas