Local businesses have been adapting to changes brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. From setting up online sales and payment platforms through to introducing new pickup and delivery options, local businesses have been innovative in finding new ways to meet the needs of their customers.

With some restrictions being eased across Victoria from 13 May, we look forward to more Central Geelong retailers returning to their physical stores and adapting their stores to meet health and safety requirements and customer expectations.

You will see retailers reopening with an increased emphasis on the maintenance of good hygiene and cleaning. Frequently used areas will be cleaned more regularly, and hand sanitiser stations will appear at entry and exit points. The team at Organic Larder in Malop Street are focused on the safety of their customers with hand sanitiser, no double handling and social distancing markers in place for those shopping in store. They are also encouraging customers to continue to call, text, email or jump online and arrange delivery of their organic supplies.

Posters at entry points will indicate how many people are allowed in stores at any one time and you may be asked to wait for people to exit a store before you can enter. The number of people permitted inside a store will be determined by government directions and this number will be calculated based on the size of the store to keep both staff and customers safe.

Social distancing markers will appear throughout stores where appropriate to assist both staff and customers maintain safe distances. Some stores may ask people to move in a certain direction with arrows indicating direction of travel. Central Geelong’s Snap Printing has adapted their business to help stores reopen with a range of essential safety signs to keep workplaces and their customers, visitors and staff – safe, healthy and happy.

Many stores have already introduced see through panels at registers to help customers and staff maintain safe social distances.

Stores that developed online offers in response to the pandemic may choose to continue to provide their online service in addition to their traditional in store experience – offering more options to their customers than ever before.

Many stores have adapted or developed different products or services to meet the needs of their customers. Central Geelong’s Popcultcha have been engaging their online audience with unboxing videos and highlighting a range of interesting instore products. They also capitalised on the jigsaw rage and now stock and sell jigsaws instore and online.

Contactless payments are now preferred with tap and go and click and collect options available in more stores than ever before.

Smellies Flowers introduced seedling trays of veggie and herb seedlings for pre-order every Friday and have made their service contactless.

Ryrie Street’s Chefs Essentials have been supporting people’s desire to bake during isolation, showcasing via social media bread tins, cakes, coffee pots and Birkenstock chef clogs about which they said: ‘Birkenstock chef clogs are fully washable and also good for Doctors and Nurses.’ They offer Geelong customers free same day delivery and have also been promoting the free parking on offer in Central Geelong to their customers.

Free casual on and off-street parking until 30 June 2020 in Central Geelong has been introduced by the City of Greater Geelong Council as a support measure to assist businesses and residents impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Time limits still apply.

Making sure you support local businesses is more important than ever. Shopping local keeps money in the local community. Local businesses employ local people. They also use a wide range of local suppliers – including accountants, financial advisors, window cleaners, product suppliers, delivery drivers, sign writers, designers, printers, caterers and florists to name a few – in running their businesses. This keeps the money you spend with them moving through the local economy – in turn supporting more businesses and creating more local jobs.

Making a choice to buy a product or service from a local business is not just good for the local business – it’s also good for you. You get great customer service from a local business, get to know the people who own or work in the store and you reduce your carbon footprint by staying close to home which is great for the environment. Local businesses also bring colour, energy and unique offerings to the streets of Central Geelong and that’s good for everyone.

It’s going to take a little getting used to but by following the guidelines and respecting the efforts of businesses to provide a safe environment, it will help keep everyone safe.

To see how Central Geelong businesses have been doing things differently and to find out more about how you can keep supporting local businesses and the free parking options in Central Geelong visit www.centralgeelong.com.au or download the Love Central Geelong app.