Our Covid Survival!

Our Covid Survival!

Posted by Tim Jennings on 2022 Mar 25th

With a sledgehammer, Covid hit us in February 2020! What to consider? What to do? The battle was just beginning. I don’t need to tell you what was happening in the bigger broader picture but will convey a short summary of how we fared.

Our Darwin and Alice Springs foot traffic died overnight so to speak. Wages, rent, multiple overheads – we needed a plan.

Let’s look at back-room stock – where we’ve always bought more than we need (that’s just been us – and usually with a bulging overdraft). Most of our artists have continual needs, most live for the “here and now” with lots of family members in tow, wanting us to supply more regular canvases and paints so they can address those needs. So, time to look seriously at this stock!

We certainly qualified for JobKeeper, and for 3 or 4 months we received that Government assistance. We had 19 staff at the time, comprising a mixture of fulltime and part time members, all having lives of their own that include mortgages and general living costs. We had well over 100 active Aboriginal artists on our books wanting to work in some capacity to supplement their living costs.

We decided on website promotions and discount sales. We got stuck into that accumulated stock in our back rooms and moved a lot of it in these sales. Much of it had never been displayed or shown before. We received a very positive response, and I take this opportunity to thank the public very much, for this tremendous support. There were some good deals and there was all round benefit!

My mind wanders from time to time thinking that had we not been “softies” and bought more than we needed over many past years, we may well have had to put staff off, and completely cut off purchases of new art. However, that wasn’t to be, and we got through those 3 or 4 months of JobKeeper only to lose it next time we applied! To qualify, your takings had to be 30% or more lower than the same time the previous year. Well, ours was 29% lower at reapplication time! And no, we weren’t going to “botch” the figures! It was a time that all Australians had to pull together! We kept the sales going! And as I write now, we still have quite a lot of backroom paintings, but a fair portion of it has moved homes. Thank you again for your support out there wherever you may be.

Covid certainly curtailed our interaction with our artists, particularly in those early months, but not completely – we continued to support where we could. But with the passage of time and vaccinations, we appear to be well down the road toward normality.

The second year of Covid (Y/E June 2021) we actually made a profit (JobKeeper grants were counted as income) and decided to pay a bonus to our staff and artists who shared $150,000 based on a formula put together by myself and long-time accountant Lyall Zweck. And no, I wasn’t included! Lyall also declined but I made him because he does such a wonderful job!

The two galleries have been very quiet for the last few months, but the website continues to tick over. We are hopeful that this coming dry season here in the NT will pick up again now that most of the Covid restrictions have eased or been done away with. And of course, we are crossing our fingers that international visitors to Australia will pick up substantially. Not only for us, but for all those battling small businesses in our country.

It hasn't been easy and hopefully the worst of it is behind us - but you never know!

Oh, we still have 19 staff!!


Tim Jennings