Business upbeat on survival

Culley’s owner Michael Culley.

A SURVEY of Fremantle business owners has shown a surprisingly upbeat outlook on the port city’s future, despite the decimation of the retail and hospitality sector by the Covid-19 outbreak.

More than 80 per cent of businesses that responded to the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce survey expected to still be in business when the crisis passed, with similar numbers seeing opportunities if they stuck with Fremantle. The biggest opportunities would come from the development happening in the city, and an expanded customer base.

Chamber CEO Danicia Quinlan said while there were only 25 responses, that wasn’t unusual for long-form surveys. 

“The profile of respondents shows a good spread of Fremantle business, industry, size and maturity,” Ms Quinlan said. 

A quarter of respondents said they’d had no choice but to shut down because of the impact on their trade from the coronavirus, and while 17 per cent were happy with the state and federal governments’ response to the impact on business, a similar number called for more flexibility with JobKeeper so it covered more casual staff.

“We have worked with our members who have expertise in these areas,” Ms Quinlan said, “to put together comprehensive packs to help our members, and local Quinlan.

business manage these dealings. We have also worked hard with our own small business tenants in the Chamber building to find ways to help during these tough times for both sides.”

A little over 10 per cent said they could use help from Federal and State governments in dealing with landlords and rent concessions. 

Over 30 per cent said the marketing of Fremantle needed to increase, while homelessness and antisocial behaviour was high on their minds.

Ms Quinlan said the chamber was working with partners on strategies to bring people back to Fremantle.  “We are working with our own chamber committees, the City of Fremantle, the city’s destination marketing working group, Tourism WA, and other key stakeholders to start to think about strategies to initially draw locals back to Fremantle when the pandemic is over,” she said. 

“It is obviously going to take some time before we will be able to target international and national tourists, and claw back all of that hard work that was starting to reap such strong benefit at the end of 2019.”

Culley’s been there before

ICONIC Fremantle bakery Culley’s survived the great depression and World War II, and owner Michael Culley is backing the local economy to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the start of the outbreak Culley’s was facing the prospect of having to shut its High Street cafe and lunch bars in O’Connor, Myaree and Bibra Lake.

But then the government announced cafes could still do takeaways, and Culley’s traded through the pandemic.

“Turnover initially dropped dramatically and we were forced to stand down staff members and share the hours between the remaining staff,” Mr Culley says.

“This only lasted two weeks; as soon as the stimulus job keeper package was announced we brought back all of our staff including the bakers.

“I feel the governments both state and federal have done their best under the circumstances.

“It is hard to know exactly when the restrictions will be lifted, hopefully we are in a position where the state government is comfortable enough to allow table service in cafes and restaurants soon.”

Mr Culley says it will take time but the local economy will eventually come good.

“I would think short term will be a struggle for Fremantle; Culleys has been trading since 1925 and my great grandparents traded through World War II and the great depression. Fremantle will bounce back as the people of Fremantle are loyal and I am sure will support their local businesses.”

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