Life in Lockdown – Julie’s Story

Life in Lockdown – Julie’s Story

 t the beginning of February, we were lucky to meet with our suppliers, dance with our friends, and celebrate our industry. In March, that soon changed, across the country we went into lockdown. We were still able to open to retail customers with provisions in place. Whilst this has continued for many of us, sadly our Metro Melbourne retailers closed their doors to retail customers for 16 weeks at the beginning of August.

If you’ve ever wondered what it must be like, we have a first-hand account from Julie Murphy, owner of Murphy’s Mitre 10.

“Firstly, thank you to those who have let me know you are thinking of us here in Melbourne. Wow, I never in my wildest dreams thought I would experience anything like the effects of this pandemic. Let me tell you a little about how life is here in metro Melbourne.

In the beginning

We were informed by our State Government on Sunday, 2nd August that stage 4 lockdown would begin on Tuesday 4th August at 11.59pm.

Stage 4 lockdown has a curfew in place and you were only allowed out of the home for 4 reasons and only within 5kms of your home. A mask must be worn any time you are out of the home.

Curfew meant you must stay home between 8pm and 5am, only essential workers travelling to and from work were allowed to be out. The 4 reasons are:

  • Essential workers and you must carry a work permit given to you by your employer- that was hours of work ensuring my 30 staff all had one in their possession.
  • Essential food shopping, only 1 person from each household could shop for only an hour. All retail shops, other than food retailers would be closed.
  • Essential caregiving.
  • Exercise, one hour per day!

This meant that from Wednesday morning, 5 August, our hardware store would be closed to the public, and only registered tradespeople could enter our timberyard. We also have a separate produce centre, this could remain open. As we all had an idea that this would occur, our weekend trade, Monday and Tuesday went nuts.

I lost sleep worrying about what stage 4 lockdown would mean to the way we conduct business.  On Tuesday, I made the dreaded call to all my casual staff to let them know that they may have less hours as we had no idea how our new “normal” would work.

We advertised heavily, letting our customers know they could call us direct, place an order and pay over the phone and we would have it ready ASAP. We also let our customers know we would deliver and that Click n Collect was available. I hurriedly organised a couple of mobile EFT machines from CBA to help with the payment process. We needed to roster one person each day to man the trade gate, letting only the allowed persons in, taking each name and number on entry for contact tracing if necessary. It was almost a military process to begin trading as all our cleaning and sanitising also needed to continue to taking place.


Lockdown now in place

Here we were just over 6 weeks in and another 5 to go! What absolute madness it has been. Our new way of conducting business takes more effort, the phone rings constantly with customer orders and queries, this involves putting customers on hold ensuring we have products, answering long-winded questions and solving them, and taking payment!

Our Click n Collects come through constantly and we are forever chasing stock to ensure the customer receives their order as quickly as possible (Bunning can take up to 4 days with their CNC), we can do anything within 5 mins to 2 days. Our trade is flat out as the building industry is still working in a limited capacity.

My staff, including casuals, are working more hours than ever, I employed 2 new casuals for the yard last week and about to hire a new casual for hardware. I didn’t need to lose sleep at all! I can see the staff are tiring now and I try to keep their spirits up with morning teas, lunches, and little treats. They are all amazing but I’m sure they’d love to throw the phone through the roof some days.

Our paint sales have tripled, firewood comes in and goes out, as many people are working from home. Our garden supplies are booming as everyone wants a project. We have customers coming to our gate with questions, such an odd way to conduct business, really much safer to be open.

IHG has been incredibly supportive, we meet weekly via Teams with all 30 odd metro stores. We all chat about the week and we all have the same issues – longer sales, more staff, tired!


My Community

I look around at our community of Monbulk, and it’s so sad to see most businesses closed, coffee shops only open for takeaway, many of these businesses won’t reopen. The Hospitality and Arts Industries are in a bad way as they have essentially not opened since March. It will be a very interesting few months as we slowly emerge successfully from this crisis.

Me, I just need a haircut and would love to see friends for a coffee/wine and a chat in person, not over Zoom! Fortunately, I live or work with my 5 children so I see them daily. I have 1 son, who lives on his own so I am mindful to be in regular contact as the mental health of those living alone is terribly concerning here, with the suicide rate increasing the longer this goes on.


Life After Lockdown

When the announcement finally came through, we were filled with mixed emotions. There was a sense of relief but also apprehension. We had gotten into the swing of things and developed a rhythm with click and collect orders. Once the reality has sunk in that we were opening the next day it was time to race around the store and clean! The shelves that we’d neglected because we were too busy needed to be dusted in time for reopening.

Nearly two weeks on the staff are happier and even booking their holidays! Customers are continuing to shop and are enjoying the face to face advice. Our click and collect orders have dramatically decreased, which is a relief because of the huge workload that came with it.

Masks are still an issue for us, the 30 degree heat makes it difficult for the staff to work with whilst using them. We also have to wear them while we are outdoors and that includes while exercising.

As for me, I’m enjoying the little things we took for granted before, such as visiting the hairdresser, going out for dinner and I can’t wait until we can get to the beach again.

I hope you are all keeping well, I’m sure each state has its own restrictions and you are trading well. Look forward to seeing you all in the not so distant future, I HOPE!


Many of our members have similar stories, it was certainly a difficult period. It has been wonderful to hear how everyone has rallied around and the concern from interstate members about what has been happening in Melbourne.

New series celebrating local family-run businesses

New series celebrating local family-run businesses

Mitre 10 has launched a new grassroots marketing campaign to celebrate the real stories and people behind its stores.

The ‘Built by Families’ series uses documentary-style videos to bring to life the legacy of local family-run businesses and the unique connection each has to its local community.

Karen Fahey, IHG’s General Manager of Marketing, said the series aims to invite consumers to understand what the Mitre 10 brand stands for.

“We are so proud to tell the stories of the local and incredibly generous families in our network. The people within our stores are the real brand champions and this is one way we can give them a voice.

“Built by Families aims to demonstrate how family-owned businesses engage and support their communities. It invites Australian consumers into the lives of these families stirring emotions and building relatability. There’s nothing superficial or contrived about the stories. Just genuine tales told by authentic people in communities across Australia”, said Ms Fahey.

The video series begins with three businesses – the Hitchins family in Moe VIC, the Hastings and Benton family in Diamond Creek VIC and, coming soon, the Johnson family in Mona Vale NSW. Brand ambassador, Scott Cam, provides an introduction for the series.

“Consumer trust and belief in our brand stems from generations of families delivering on a service and work ethic and fostering strong relationships with their customers – the very trademark of locally-owned, family-run business.  The generational knowledge and expertise contained within these families is priceless and cannot be replicated.  These three stories are saying it’s not just product on the shelf in our stores…it’s the people who work there, their values and the small things they do that make their communities better.

“The spirit of Mitre 10 lingers on in towns long after the lights go out and the store is shut. We encourage consumers to think differently about the people behind their local hardware store and listen to their stories. When you shop with locals you’ll not only have a more enriching experience, you’ll invest in the health of that community.

The campaign will be executed through multiple channels including a dedicated ‘Built by Families’ website, TV advertising spots during The Block and social media. Visit for more details.

Built by Families
IHG Update | Best Stores in Town

IHG Update | Best Stores in Town

2020 has been a year of challenges in so many respects, but it hasn’t stopped independent members recognising the value of reinvesting back in to their businesses. IHG’s sapphire transformation program has continued to roll out at pace throughout 2020 despite travel and physical distancing restraints, as well as the increased consumer demand for home improvement projects.

A shout out to the below IHG members who have recently completed redevelopment projects – a BIG congratulations for your hard work and determination to improve the shopping experience for your local community.

Berry Springs Home Hardware, NT:

One of IHG’s newest group members, and the first store opening in the Northern Territory for the group in many years. Store owners Russell and Lindy Willing held a grand opening in October for their new-look hardware store in Berry Springs, an hour south of Darwin. Russell and Lindy were already connected to the Metcash family as an existing IGA Xpress member and saw an opportunity to open a small hardware offer (435m2) in an adjoining building after a previous hardware and rural supplies business closed. Together with IHG’s store development team, Russell and Lindy undertook an ambitious challenge to upgrade the site internally and externally in a tight five week window. It is the first Home Hardware ‘convenience offer’ under the IHG store development program and the results look fantastic. Congratulations to Russell and Lindy.

Dunsborough Mitre 10, WA:

Located 250km south of Perth, Dunsborough Mitre 10 is back trading after owners Trent and Kristin Wilson went through quite a journey in 2020. In March the store experienced a major structural fire and had to close due to the damage caused. Through hard work and perseverance Trent and Kristin focused on getting the store back trading as soon as possible, and engaged IHG to assist in the rebuild and reopening through a full Sapphire transformation. The outcome is a bigger and better offer for locals than ever before. An outstanding effort by all involved to turn this store around in such a short period of time. On 17 October the store was opened for a soft launch to the community. Well done Trent and Kirstin – a terrific result you have delivered for your Dunsborough community. Congratulations.

Exmouth Mitre 10, WA:

Another remote project, this one in the resort town of Exmouth, a 1,248km drive north west of Perth. Store owners Anna and Glenn Passmore are one of the latest IHG members to make rebrand from HTH to Mitre 10. The store is considered a one-stop-shop for hardware needs in the town, servicing the heavy tourist trade and local community through a broad hardware offer, including a Weber dealership and an extensive range of anything outdoors to support the extreme adventurers and tourists. Congratulations Anna and Glenn – an impressive new-look business for your local community.


Acheson’s Mitre 10, Forbes, NSW:

The Acheson family have proudly serviced the Forbes region, 370km inland from Sydney, for over 40 years. Owners Aaron and Jacinda Acheson commenced the rebrand from HTH to Mitre 10 this year as part of the family’s plans to improve the overall shopping experience for locals and continue its successful combat of the big box competition in town. The store is a five times consecutive Village award winner (HTH >1000sqm) and embraces all IHG initiatives to support its community offer, aligning to the shopper-led range, and using trade technology and analytics such as the Store Manager’s dashboard to drive results. The store looks fantastic and will no doubt be a community hub for another 40 years. Congratulations Aaron and Jacinda.

Pilbarra Mitre 10, Tom Price, WA:

One of IHG’s most remote store transformations with the rebrand of Muzzy’s HTH to Pilbarra Mitre 10. Located in Tom Price, 1400kms north of Perth, it was a long 15.5 hour drive for our painting contractors. Tom Price is a very strong mining town. Owners Rhys and Suzanne Edwards have focused on making their store a one-stop shop for the community – their unique offer including all the traditional hardware and building product categories as well as children’s toys, Safety products, bicycles, giftware’s and a range of Quad bikes. With a footprint of almost 2000sqm for Retail and Trade, it took over 410 litres of blue paint to cover the numerous sheds. The store looks fantastic and we congratulate owners Rhys and Suzanne.

Biloela Home Timber & Hardware, QLD:

In the central Queensland town of Bileola, about 560km north west of Brisbane, is the first HTH Refresh project completed under IHG store development program, completed in August 2020. The new livery inside and out for Biloela Home Timber & Hardware looks fantastic and store owners Tim Kessler and Kent Hutton are said to be thrilled with the result. The refresh included new style promotional ends, department banners and total refresh of the externals to new HTH livery.

Sunlite Mitre 10, Bondi Junction, NSW:

The sixth Sapphire transformation project for Steven Czeiger’s inner-city small format DIY stores, and another outstanding example of the unique personality of the award-winning Sunlite business. The Bondi Junction store epitomises the boutique convenience hardware supermarket offer in the same fashion that Sunlite’s other locations does, such as Sydney CBD, Mosman, Paddington, Newtown, with a tight but superb range of hardware and personal service second to none. Congratulations Steven on yet another outstanding convenience hardware business.

Hunters Mitre 10, Shepparton VIC:

A rebrand from HTH to Mitre 10 for this iconic trade, hardware and rural business in Shepparton, in central Victoria. Congratulations to store owner Michael Moroney and his team for and outstanding redevelopment that has been in the works for over 12 months.

Pambula Mitre 10, NSW:

The largest hardware, timber and building supplies store in the Bega Valley specializing in trade, power tools and garden, and a hub location to support many other IHG members in the region. In 2020 the store extended its trade offer with the installation of a multi-million dollar Trade Centre attached to the retail store (its trade offer previously operating on an off-site location), completed under IHG’s sapphire transformation program. Completion of the project has not been without complications, due to the summer bushfires and COVID restrictions, but the management team led by Chris Flint, Owen Humphries and Matt Jorgensen preserved through all the challenges thrown at them. Pambula is part of the Sapphire Coast Group comprising of stores in Pambula, Bega and Eden. Congratulations to Chris, Owen, Matt and all the Sapphire Coast team.

Porters Mitre 10 Northern Beaches, Rural View QLD:

A great result for the Porter family with their latest Trade Only sapphire store opening in August at Rural View on the northern beaches growth corridor of Mackay. Another outstanding Trade Centre in far north Queensland.

COVID-19: can Christmas parties go ahead?

COVID-19: can Christmas parties go ahead?



COVID-19 has put a dampener on social activities this year, but it’s still possible to inject some fun into end-of-year celebrations without putting anyone at risk.

Party outdoors

Why not take your event outdoors? This is the safest option, given that most infections are contracted in indoor spaces, where air currents mean that people generally end up breathing in other people’s exhaled air, even with physical distancing and air conditioning.

An outdoor event in a park or public garden can take advantage of beautiful surroundings – weather permitting – and partying in the open air presents a much lower risk of inhaling aerosols that may be contaminated from someone else’s breath.

With some venues, it will be necessary to book your space. In Canberra, for example, the National Capital Authority is promoting the idea that organisations could hold their function in the Old Parliament House Rose Gardens or on Aspen Island. In the spirit of holiday giving, the NCA will waive hire fees. So plan ahead and get in early.

Physical distancing is still important, even outdoors, so dancing, singing and close-up mingling should not be part of the plan. And the ground rules for the event should make it clear that anyone who is unwell, particularly anyone who has any respiratory symptoms such as a cough or cold, must not attend the event.

Hand sanitising stations should be readily accessible, and any hand hygiene risks anticipated and avoided as far as reasonably practicable. For example, you may consider asking people attending to bring their own plates and cutlery, and their own food and drink.

In addition, public health requirements in many jurisdictions mean that businesses and undertakings need to keep a record of everyone attending, the name, phone number, the date and time they attended the venue. This information is important for contact tracing, in case it later emerges that someone at the event subsequently tested positive, and may have passed on the virus without realising it.

To properly guard personal information, paper-based collection of contact tracing information should be done on a form that is kept private from other patrons, and secure from unauthorised access over the following weeks. The information can be destroyed after 28 days.

Collection of electronic information (eg on an iPad) must also maintain the privacy of personal information, and moreover, it must be done in a way that does not create a hygiene risk. For this reason, devices should not be handed to people attending, but rather collected by a staff member holding the device.

Keep events small

The scale, nature and venue for your event should be chosen in the light of the local situation. Find out whether you’ll need a COVID-19 Safety Plan, check maps of hot spots for active cases in the areas of potential venues, and make your plans accordingly.

Numbers of people attending will have to be within the allowable limits. Check your local health department to find out what restrictions apply in your locale.
Take advantage of technology

A solution for some businesses may be a hybrid event where some people are on site and others join in via Zoom or other platforms. This is an ideal way to include vulnerable individuals who may be at special risk, for whatever reason.

While ‘virtual mingling’ might not have quite the same zing to it, if you’re joining in from home you can still relax and chat with colleagues, and at least you won’t be having to balance a drink and a plate in one hand while using a fork with the other.

Live, interactive games that cyberspace attendees can participate in are limited only by the imagination. Invite staff to make suggestions, and you might be surprised by what people come up with. And if that doesn’t bear fruit, event organisers would no doubt be delighted to arrange COVID-safe trips to wineries or other venues serving gourmet food with music.

As long as it’s safe for everyone, a celebration can be a positive influence on workplace morale and a well-deserved relief, after such a difficult year.

Member can download a code of conduct & Christmas Party to employees here (under the fact sheets tab).

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Can we change work hours during the holiday season?

Can we change work hours during the holiday season?


The holiday season can throw up a variety of employee leave issues, including shift swaps and changed working hours.

A question recently raised with our Workplace Relations team was:

Question: We have one employee who works Monday to Thursday 9.5 hours a day and another employee who works Tuesday to Friday 9.5 hours a day. One employee is taking leave in December and the other is taking leave in January.

Their manager would like them to cover for each other. They are covered under the Manufacturing & Associated Industries Award. If they both worked the additional day, would they have to be paid overtime for the day as they would be working more than 38hrs per week? With their agreement can their hours be changed to 7.6 per day Monday to Friday to ensure effective coverage and reduce the chance of fatigue?

Answer: If an employer wants to change an employee’s ordinary hours of work then they must consult with the employee about the proposed change in line with the relevant award. In this case, it is clause 41.2 of the Manufacturing & Associated Industries Award.

This includes informing the employee of the proposed changes, inviting them to give their views about the changes and taking those views into consideration.

If the employee has an employment contract that states specific days and hours, then that needs to be taken into consideration.

Employee fatigue

Minimising employee fatigue is a real consideration. This could occur from information overload and work overload compounded by intense time pressures, lack of control over work and a level of frustration with constraints that raises the risk of stress, burnout, long-term sick leave and workers compensation claims.

Information overload can combine with other pressures to impair a person’s work performance, undermining their capacity to make decisions, work safely, or maintain a reasonable degree of effectiveness and efficiency. The result can be dramatic in terms of lost productivity and increased risk of oversights, errors and accidents.

From all these points of view, it makes good business sense to manage the risks of information or work overload and fatigue.

Change ordinary hours by agreement

If the proposed new hours are a clear contradiction of the contracted hours, then the contract must be amended by agreement even if it is short term.

Still, have Questions?

Members are entitled to unlimited* IR advice if you need further clarification or specific advice call 1300 391 426

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