NSW printers welcome COVID lockdown business support

Print business owners have welcomed the new business support packages with many reflecting on how much they have learned about weathering COVID storms and others asking if the funding is sustainable and enough to keep print businesses going.

With Greater Sydney currently locked down until at least July 30, businesses are reeling. This week the National Retail Association said retailers were $1 billion down a week in sales for each week of the current lockdown.

To help businesses, some funding support was announced this week.

These include an extension of the NSW Government’s Business Grants Program to between $7,500 and $15,000 for eligible businesses with annual wages up to $10 million. There is also a grant available for small businesses with turnovers between $30,000 and $75,000.

There is also a Commonwealth/NSW Government funded Business Support Program, which can be applied for from Monday July 19 through Service NSW. Eligible businesses can receive between $1500 and $10,000 a week during the lockdown.

This is for businesses with annual turnovers between $75,000 and $50 million which are down 30 per cent on revenue compared to a two-week period which is understood to be from June/July 2019. Businesses must also keep on their staff to get this payment.

Other initiatives from NSW include payroll tax waivers for eligible businesses. Of the printers Sprinter spoke to about the funding, all were grateful that it had been offered and said every bit of support will help them and their customers. But many are concerned about the broader impacts this will have on the industry and questioned how some businesses will survive.

Carbon8 co-director Peter Musarra said despite the current lockdown, he is feeling bullish that this period will pass and the market will return to the way it was just a few weeks ago.

“I don’t think any print business in my immediate orbit is completely immune to what is a potential downturn to new inquiries or the holding off of projects that were looking to be released or launched. Sydney was having a dream run and it was almost as if it was back to pre-COVID; we were having a fantastic resurgence here,” Musarra told Sprinter.

“The predictions from last year were certainly far more pessimistic when it first melted down but this year, I am more bullish because we can see light at the end of the tunnel. The vaccinations will be the trick to it, and I think what will happen is it will be a slingshot economy where you do the hard work, batten down the hatches and promote because it will come back stronger again.

“A lot of businesses have also learnt to work around the situation and have some different approaches. There are businesses that are well-placed despite COVID and are prepared to invest and spend. I think it will be quite a bullish economy in NSW.”

On the eligibility concerns, Musarra said he will wait for that to become clearer. “The reality is that whatever that formula or eligibility is, we will face that when it is made clearer,” Musarra said.

“For us, it is not as dire. We certainly want to maintain all our staffing as staffing levels are integral to a profitable operation.”

Centrum Printing CEO Sandra Duarte said small businesses are “doing it incredibly tough at the moment” and she doubted the support would be enough to keep them treading water until there is a way forward.

“Small businesses are doing it extremely tough right now. Is this financial support enough to keep them treading water until we see a way forward? I don’t believe so,” Duarte said.

“Yet any support is better than none and the cash boost will help pay some immediate bills. However, with wages, rent and overheads to pay, many have exhausted any reserves and are on the brink of never reopening.”

Duarte said the payroll tax relief will be a big help for the printing industry and others.

“The payroll relief will assist in the short term with some lump sum benefits if you’re eligible. I say the government should bring back Job Keeper especially since we find ourselves and the economy in a far more serious and compromising situation than before,” she said.

“We are seeing less work and production prior to lockdown which creates concern with maintaining normal staff levels. We are still unclear on how long this will continue on for.

“I feel many businesses will be hit hard and struggle to recover if this lockdown continues on for another 3-4 weeks. With less activity in the market due to restrictions and closures, this means less need for print and promotional collateral.  I feel the government need to do more than what they’re doing to help small businesses and our economy survive during these times.  We are all feeling the strain on our businesses and our industry.”

Rawson Print Co. director Lachlan Finch said any support is welcome, but he questioned if the payments would be sufficient to keep print businesses going.

“All business should be grateful for any government assistance at this time, but is it sufficient to sustain print businesses? That is the broader question,” he told Sprinter.

“Smaller shopfront businesses (especially those in the NSW CBD) are more likely to suffer a bigger turndown in revenue than larger print companies with ongoing contracted work, so there’s not a one size fits all solution.

“Hopefully, businesses have learned from the last lockdown and can adapt quickly implementing similar plans to minimise the impact.

“I would also say to industry colleagues to reach out for help if they need a hand or advice. We are all in this together and it’s the Australian way to help each other when times are tough. Sometimes, a simple conversation can yield a great result for everyone.”

Imagination Graphics owner Emmanuel Buhagiar welcomed the government support and said every bit helps as incoming work drops off.

“We make COVID screens, and we have some orders coming in for those, but they are not big money makers – they are extra jobs we can do,” Buhagiar told Sprinter.

“It (the government relief) is not a real lot of money, but it helps and it will help. They want us to pay half and the government will pay half to keep people on. I’m lucky because I’ve got the hospital work and an exemption to keep working because we do a lot of forms, but it is all the other work. I have a lot of events companies and just as they started sending us work for charity and corporate events it has now stopped. So, what the government has done is good and it will help.”

Bright Print Group co-director Debbie Burgess said the government support is essential to assist all sectors adversely impacted by the lockdown. She also supported the funding for mental health services.

“All financial assistance will no doubt be welcomed by all small to medium businesses. We are still reviewing the details today and my hope is the method of registering and the deployment of funds is efficient throughout the chain,” Burgess said.

“It’s good to read increased funding for mental health services as well. Too many people are struggling now. In some instances, I think this lockdown may be the final straw. We were all starting to think things were getting back to normal. We had certainly seen green shoots emerging and confidence was building again amongst our clients. That has quickly dissipated. 

“My hope now is we can emerge from this latest lockdown quickly and with as little financial and human damage as possible. My thoughts are with those whose health has been impacted or who have lost loved ones.”

Twin Loop Binding director Wayne Rubin said Sydney’s current COVID crisis is very stressful and business owners have many concerns.

“The current Sydney COVID crisis resulting in the lockdowns is very stressful. We all have the same concerns: What happens if our staff members become a direct contact?  How long will the lock down really last?  How will our customers handle the lockdown?” Rubin asked.

“I think as business owners we need to realise we’re not alone and the federal and NSW Governments have indicated a commitment to safeguarding the industry.

“It’s more than just financial uncertainty, this time it feels even more emotional, our families are in lockdown we cannot visit our parents or friends and our children are required to attend school through Zoom meetings.  I think we also have a responsibility for reassuring not only our family but our staff and customers that we’re in this together and thanks to federal and state government support we will get through this just like we did with the Global Financial Crisis.”

Cactus Imaging founder Keith Ferrel said the relief will reassure local businesses trying to make ends meet at this time.

“While business is far more aware and have learnt lots from the previous lockdown, any financial assistance will be welcome to those that require it. It will provide a level of reassurance to both business and staff at all levels,” Ferrel told Sprinter.

“For those staff that are residential tenants and have had a reduction in income, it provides surety that they cannot be evicted from a rental property and with the likelihood that this lockdown could go on for at least another month, it will provide some certainty. 

“The main priority is the health and safety of all within the industry and the package will be widely welcome.”

Ferrel also said businesses now would have had the opportunity to learn from initial COVID lockdowns and have plans in place for future outbreaks.

“Many will say that the overall package will not sustain business for too long, but I believe many businesses have planned for the expectation that the COVID outbreak would occur again and are better equipped to see through a short lockdown than they were previously.”

Lamson Paragon Group of Companies CEO Rodney Frost said the assistance will provide some relief as it would keep more people in jobs.  

“All assistance is welcome, and it is positive to see that the focus is to keep everyone in jobs. We all need each other now more than ever,” he said.

“We thank all of the government and healthcare workers involved doing their best.”

Frost also suggested that companies take a closer look at their numbers to get a better understanding of how the relief will impact their businesses. 

“My advice is to get an understanding of your cost percentages and run some scenarios with your accountant or whomever you get advice from on these matters,” he added.

Earlier this week, Phillip Joel, who owns a string of Kwik Kopy centres in Sydney appeared in a Nine nightly news bulletin and spoke about why fast access to financial support is crucial.

“You need money in your bank account within 48 hours for most of these people to get by,” Joel told Nine, adding he had more than halved his staff already.

“If you are going to lock people down, you are going to need to support them as well financially.”

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