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Businesses battling
HELDERBERG – The Covid-19 lockdown is taking its toll on most businesses, particularly small businesses that are seen as non-essential during the Level 4 restrictions.
The Helderberg’s small business owners, across all industries and sectors are not immune, many concerned whether they will be able to open their doors when lockdown is lifted.
Linda Swart, owner of Bday Parties at the Gants Centre, is one such business owner, who fears the hard work she and her staff put in over the store’s 12 years of trading may be all in vain. The store specialises in party supplies, especially for themed parties, decor, balloon decor, partyware and rentals of party equipment.
Since the commencement of lockdown on Friday 27 March, the doors of Bday Parties has remained shut. “The lockdown has affected the business tremendously, as we have no income at all,” Swart related. “Despite the relaxing of restrictions with the implementation of Level 4, we are still not able to trade and are expecting to only be permitted to reopen in Level 2. After trading for 12 years this lockdown may cost us our business.”
Similarly, Helderberg Gold and Diamond Exchange in Somerset West was not permitted to trade during the first extended lockdown period, so income was not being generated that time, owner Martin Vorster confirmed. “As with most family-owned businesses that live a hand-to-mouth existence, we used our savings to carry us through this period,” he said. “The bills haven’t stopped coming, and we have to pay them if we wish to resume business when this is over.”
The operations of Helderberg Gold and Diamond Exchange, founded about four years ago, entail purchasing gold, diamonds, Kruger rands, silver, numismatics, other currencies and collectibles. Although operations have resumed since Level 4, it remains a vulnerable period for the business.
“The refineries we sell to are still closed, which means we can buy goods but cannot sell them to the refineries to recoup our money,” Vorster said. “With limited financial resources we cannot help everyone who comes into our shop. We also have to see clients who call us, instead coming to us, which is risky even though we [take the necessary precautions].” Vorster said the business has a chance of survival if its landlord assists with rental relief and its loyal clientele support it.
Clive Jephtas, owner of The Persian Carpet at Stellenbosch Square, says the lockdown has placed financial strain on the business, as the bills need to be paid and it is not eligible for any financial relief offered by government. “That said, we believe human life must always be a priority, despite the negative impact of the pandemic on the global economy,” the Firgrove resident said.
“I understand we all can’t start trading at the same time, but we will have to wait for Level 2 to be implemented before we can reopen. This pandemic is a real killer, and we can beat this only if we obey the regulations.”
Last week DistrictMail reported on the stance of medium to large operations in the basin, many owners and managers shedding light on how the lockdown has affected operations and expressing their dismay at bureaucratic processes to access funds made available through government (“It’s ‘scary times’ for businesses”, 7 May). Several of them also shared their concerns about continuing to pay the salaries of employees, while operations were at a standstill.
Daantjie Malan, chairperson of the Helderberg Sakekamed, pointed out that cash flow is at the top of business owners’ minds at this time. “The pandemic can cause many businesses in the Helderberg to suffer irreparable damage and lead to eventual closure, which in turn will lead to job losses and more hardship,” he said.
“Businesses able to adapt or have sufficient reserves and access to finance will survive, but many are not so fortunate. We are in uncharted waters, and nobody knows when Covid-19 will be over or when the economy will recover.”
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