A string of bad luck has hit Kambri businesses hard, and after the closure of campus in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many are unable to make a profit. Following the disastrous weather events of this summer – the bushfires, smoke and then hail – this is yet another threat to their continued existence.
However, the manager of Asian Tiger told Woroni that the bad luck for her business began even before then. In October 2019, the price of all meat supplies increased by 20 per cent following the African Swine fever, which killed 100 million pigs in China. The profit margins of Kambri businesses such as Asian Tiger were further reduced by the Australian drought, which caused a serious shortage of rice supplies.
The unpredictable weather patterns that emerged during the summer further aggravated this. While it is common that campus has significantly less visitors during the summer, the bushfire and smoke meant that even less people visited than usual. Many businesses also temporarily closed due to a lack of customers.
Asian Tiger reopened for business on Monday 6 January to try and make up for the lack of business over the summer break. In preparation, they ordered a significant amount of fresh stock. However, the campus was then unexpectedly closed due to air quality issues caused by the smoke, leaving all stock purchased for this period to go to waste. This situation repeated itself with the hail.
To help alleviate the impact of these events, an ANU spokesperson told Woroni that the month of January saw the university apply a 50 per cent rebate on rent for all commercial tenancies across the ANU campus. These concluded at the end of January.
After a difficult few months, the Asian Tiger management was looking forward to O-Week, to try to make up for the losses they experienced during the summer. However, the end of January saw greater coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak, which greatly affected business. The manager of Asian Tiger told Woroni that earlier during the outbreak, where COVID-19 was more exclusively associated with China, she felt that her business was being harmed by negative perceptions associated with Asian food.
While some students have returned, the increased number of people working from home has meant that even while campus was open, Kambri struggled to find customers. The manager of Hot-Star Fried Chicken told Woroni that when comparing with a normal Sunday during the semester (the day in which most businesses experience their lowest sale), their average daily turnover was a quarter of what it had been before the government implemented the travel ban. As a result, Hot-Star Fried Chicken was running their business below the break-even point. In relation to this, About half of university stores were temporarily shut down.
Despite this string of adversity, the manager of Hot-Star Fried Chicken told Woroni that they want to “keep supporting the university and our community by providing cheap and convenient food” and therefore have done their best to remain open for regular business hours.
However, many Kambri business owners will be unable to continue business given that the ANU has moved entirely online and access to campus has been heavily restricted. The ANU has announced no new rent reduction schemes and missed the March 27 deadline to inform Kambri business owners of their plans. This means that many of these business owners are left out in the cold, with a lack of savings to rely on and no reasonable means of conducting their businesses in the long term.