It’s usually rammed with shoppers.
But Westfield Parramatta resembled something of a ghost town on Thursday night with hardly anyone heading out to the usually bustling shopping centre.
The coronavirus pandemic will hit Australia’s small businesses the hardest, but big stores are already struggling too – with Myer and Target among the retail giants doing it tough.
Target at Westfield Parramatta was completely empty as staff tried to busy themselves by rearranging shelves
What Westfield Parramatta used to look like: Shoppers filled the complex on Thursday late night shopping
When Daily Mail Australia headed to the shops on Thursday, most of them were more or less deserted.
Mariam Kham, 31, works at Mexican takeaway joint Salsa’s.
As she looked around the empty food court, Ms Khan said the place was normally so full that people could barely find a spare seat.
She said she noticed a massive drop in customers last Friday when Scott Morrison announced the social distancing policies that have left millions of Australians working from home.
‘Everyone stopped going out. Our sales are down by 30 per cent in one week,’ she said.
‘I’m not worried about the virus, I’m worried about what the government are doing to the economy.’
Mariam Kham, 31, said Salsa’s (pictured) was usually so busy people struggled to move
The cosmetics section of Myer was once brimming with shoppers. The COVID-19 social distancing policies rendered it empty
An employee at the empty cosmetics section in Myer echoed Ms Khan’s sentiments – and said shopping centres may not be able to cope with the lack of footfall.
‘There’s speculation about whether shopping centres will close down, but I’m not really sure.’
‘Ever since the corona thing blew up it has been dead. It’s so quiet.’
A woman working in the barren homewares section of Target said she had no choice but to try to ‘look busy’ to avoid the ire of her boss.
But small business owners will be hit the hardest by the corona crunch.
Bag Gem at Westfield Parramatta only made three luggage sales in two days. It used to make 50 in one day
One lonely person sits at a restaurant in the shopping complex on Thursday night
Peter owns luggage store Bag Gem in the shopping complex.
The 59-year-old used to make more than 50 sales in a day.
With the sudden drop in customers, locked borders and nationwide travel bans, the defeated father-of-three said he had only made three luggage sales in two days.
‘I’m not worried about coronavirus, but the economy, well yeah I am worried,’ he said.
‘It costs $50,000 per month for this store. I’ve only made three sales,’ he sighed.
‘I don’t know. I just don’t know. This can’t keep going.’
Peter’s employee, Young, explained the small store would usually have about 50 people inside at one time on a Thursday night.
At 6.30pm on Thursday, the store was empty.
One employee at Westfield Parramatta said it’s usually impossible to find a parking space. COVID-19 has made it easier to get one
Marie Eric, 24, and Money Eric, 26, in Woolworths vegetable section wearing face masks
Meat was largely sold out in all supermarkets as early-risers stockpile food in the event of supermarket shutdowns
But while the shops were empty, the nearby Woolworths supermarket was rammed.
Pregnant mum-of-two Priscilla Tuiafiso, 29, sat in the food court with her infant daughter and said she only went to the centre because she was struggling to buy baby wipes.
‘I think the panic is just ridiculous if I’m being honest with you. Hand sanitiser is $20 for a tiny thing.
‘I’m not worried about the virus, I’m really worried about the economy. My husband is a truck driver and that’s his work. It’s not just a few things that are closing down, it’s a lot and it’s scary.’
Kim, 27, is wearing a face mask in Woolworths with a trolley that has Kinder Surprises in it
Pregnant mum-of-two Priscilla Tuiafiso, 29, sat in the food court with her infant daughter and said she only went to the centre because she couldn’t get bay wipes in any of her local stores
An employee could be seen launching himself over bags of root vegetables to break up the fight
Entire streets of shops could be wiped out and thousands of workers out of jobs as coronavirus crushes small business across Australia.
Staff in cafes, bars, florists, and yoga studios are already being laid off en masse as sales plunge up to 80 per cent in just two weeks.
On Thursday Scott Morrison announced the closure of Australia’s borders to all non-resident foreigners, which could cripple the tourist industry for six months.
The drastic move to shut Australia’s borders from 9pm on Friday came as local cases surged to over 700, with about 80 per cent of those coming in from overseas.
Chilling parallels between coronavirus meltdown and the Great Depression – with TWO MILLION facing unemployment
By Stephen Johnson
The coronavirus crisis could cause Australia’s unemployment rate to almost triple to Great Depression levels of the 1930s as casual workers are increasingly laid off, experts say.
Qantas is already temporarily retrenching two-thirds of its 30,000 staff as the airline suspends international flights until at least the end of May, like its rival Virgin Australia.
Casual jobs in retail and hospitality have also gone as the government bans indoor room gatherings of 100 or more people in a bid to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
The coronavirus crisis could cause Australia’s unemployment rate to almost triple to Great Depression levels of the 1930s as casual workers are increasingly laid off, experts say. Pictured are unemployed men in Perth
Digital Finance Analytics principal Martin North, an economist, said that in a ‘worse case’ scenario, Australia’s unemployment rate could surge from 5.1 per cent now to 14 per cent in 2021.
The Australian government could be forced to embark on an unprecedented $100billion stimulus package, if the responses in the UK and US are any guide, to stop businesses going to the wall as ranks of the unemployed swell.
Mr North’s predictions of unemployment almost tripling are based on a COVID-19 vaccine being developed within six months and economic activity grinding to almost zero in the absence of an effective government spending spree.
‘Nobody knows. We are in completely uncharted territory,’ he told Daily Mail Australia on Thursday.
‘Trying to get certainty at a time of uncertainty is impossible.’
Should his prediction come true, Australia would have the highest jobless rate since 1932, at the height of the Great Depression, when unemployment peaked at 19.75 per cent.
Digital Finance Analytics principal Martin North, an economist, said that in a ‘worse case’ scenario, Australia’s unemployment rate could surge from 5.1 per cent now to 14 per cent in 2021. Pictured are shoppers at Costco in Perth wearing face masks
It would also surpass the 9.9 per cent jobless rate experienced during the last recession in early 1991 and the subsequent jobless rate of 11.2 per cent by December 1992, which saw almost 1million Australians out of work.
This would see the number of jobless people in Australia skyrocket from 699,100 in February 2020, when the first cases of coronavirus outside China were confirmed, to 1.9million within little more than a year.
Even more people could be unemployed, with the official Australian Bureau of Statistics data not counting the hidden unemployed, or those who have given up looking for work.
Mr North said public health measures to contain coronavirus were likely to cause a dramatic reduction in gross domestic product as large-scale events were cancelled, people stopped visiting cafes and restaurants and building projects were put on hold.
‘People aren’t going to buy stuff, people aren’t going to buy houses, people aren’t going to be building stuff – GDP is about activity and fundamentally, we are going to see activity right down to very, very low levels,’ he said.
‘We’ve got to assume the virus is going to rage for at least six months and that means, the productive capacity in the economy is going to be close to zero.’
Women wear protective face masks amidst fears of COVID-19 coronavirus in Sydney
A woman wearing a face mask in an attempt to avoid contracting COVID-19 on March 18 in Sydney CBD
Ghost town: Friday is typically the busiest day of the week for Australian airports but the international terminal at Melbourne’s Tullamarine complex was virtually empty
Cricket fans peer through the gates at the SCG after Cricket Australia announced no members of the public would be admitted to venues