Restrictions on warehouses, DCs in Melbourne to ease later this month
Restrictions on warehouses and postal distribution centres are set to ease well before restaurants and retail stores are allowed to reopen to the public in metropolitan Melbourne, according to a roadmap that Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews revealed on Sunday afternoon.
This could help alleviate the delivery delays that many online and omnichannel retailers have been experiencing since Australia’s second biggest city entered a Stage 4 lockdown in early August.
Unlike bricks-and-mortar retail stores, warehouses and DCs have been permitted to operate during Stage 4, but to reduce the risk of transmission, they have been forced to reduce their daily peak onsite workforce by at least one third, and their daily total onsite workforce by at least 10 per cent. The only exceptions are supermarket warehouses and DCs and those handling perishable food or medications.
At the same time, Melburnians have increased their online shopping. NAB’s Online Retail Sales Index was up more than 64 per cent in July compared to the same month last year, thanks to a sharp increase in Victoria.
Retailers that have warehouses and DCs in metropolitan Melbourne, such as Catch and Adore Beauty, have been under pressure to process more orders with fewer people on the ground. And even then, they have been reliant on overloaded courier partners to deliver the item to the customers’ doorstep.
This has all led to delayed deliveries and a less-than-ideal customer experience.
But that could soon be history, as the workforce restrictions for warehouses and DCs are set to ease as soon as September 28, when the city takes the second step of its reopening plan. That move is contingent on public health advice and there being an average of 30-50 cases per day over the prior 14-day period.
According to the roadmap, metropolitan Melbourne will take four steps to return to Covid normal, and regional Victoria will take three. The steps are currently scheduled to occur on certain dates, but are also dependent on the case count being below a certain threshold and public health advice.
The big changes for bricks-and-mortar retail won’t occur until Melbourne takes the third step, which is currently set to occur on October 26, subject to there being an average of five daily cases statewide in the prior 14-day period, and less than five of unknown transmissions during that time.
At this point, retailers that were forced to close to the public during Stage 4 will be able to open with density quotients and cleaning requirements. Restaurants and cafes will be able to open for outdoor dining with a patron cap and density quotient. Hair salons will be able to open, but not other beauty services.
Offices, however, will remain closed, as employees must continue to work from home or at a single site where reasonably practical.
The last step is set to occur statewide on November 23, dependent on there being no new cases statewide for 14 days. This will see the return of indoor dining with a patron cap per space and the reopening of beauty services. Larger limits on indoor and outdoor public gatherings will also take effect.
When trigger points are met across the state and there are no outbreaks of concern in other states or territories, Victoria will move into the Covid normal stage. A this point, there will no longer be any restrictions on gatherings, visitors, hospitality or sport.
Andrews said on Sunday that he hopes to be at this point by the end of the year.