“Our thoughts are with all our customers, team members and communities that have been impacted by the flood crisis,” an Endeavour Group spokesperson told Inside Retail.
“Team members have access to a variety of support, including disaster leave, financial assistance for property damage, gift vouchers for food assistance, accommodation if they have been displaced, access to confidential counselling for them and their family members and more.”
Queensland-based online homewares retailer The Somewhere Co narrowly escaped losing tens of thousands of dollars in stock last week, thanks to the timely opening of a new warehouse outside the flood zone three days before the rain began.
Its head office, located just 200 metres away from the Brisbane River in Newstead, QLD, wasn’t as lucky.
“In some areas, there was about a metre to a metre-and-a-half of water. We copped it from the front, but through the pipes at the back as well,” Kate Sommerville, marketing manager at The Somewhere Co, told Inside Retail.
“If the stock hadn’t been moved, we would have lost a good portion of it.”
Team members are pitching in to help clean up the office, Somerville said. They’re also packing bags of food and supplies in the brand’s colourful cooler bags to give to communities that have been harder hit.
Lismore in the Northern Rivers region of NSW is one of those communities.
Kym Strow, who owns the popular Flock Espresso and Eats in Lismore, feels fortunate that she and her wife, Sarah Jones, and their dogs survived the flood. Her home and café of nine years are gone, she said.
“I was petrified”
“We opened up for normal trade on Sunday [February 27], and we were full house. People were acting as if nothing was happening,” Strow told Inside Retail.
“We’d had no contact from the SES to evacuate, but the rain hadn’t eased at all, so I made the decision to stop service at 12pm, and put a callout on social media to ask people to help lift everything we could move onto the mezzanine.”
After securing their cafe, Strow and Jones returned to their home, which they had just bought, to do the same. It wasn’t considered to be in the flood zone, but they still moved everything they could onto their kitchen bench, bed, and tables.
“We spoke to a couple older people who had lived in the area for years, who said we didn’t need to worry,” Strow recalled.
But around 1am on Monday morning, they received a text message from the SES to evacuate.
“My wife and I took some clothes for the next few days and put our dogs in our car, and tried to get to higher ground,” she said.
However, some streets were already completely flooded, and Strow had to drive to lower ground in order to navigate back up to higher ground. The water was rising so quickly that Strow wasn’t sure they would make it.
“I was petrified. I will never ever put my family in that position ever again – not knowing where to go, not knowing it was coming, it was the most horrific experience,” she said.
“I can’t explain it. It makes my stomach feel sick. I’m so relieved we got out.”
Strow and her wife eventually reached the top of a hill, where they waited in their car for the rest of the night and tried to contact their friends and staff. She said their elderly neighbour had to be rescued through his kitchen window, and a friend got stuck in her roof cavity.
Now that the storm has eased, Strow and Jones are beginning the long and emotional process of cleaning up their home and café.
“We don’t know what the future holds,” Strow said.
Food supply chain in crisis
Twenty people have died in the floods, which have caused an estimated $2 billion in damage so far, and the impact on the food supply chain could be felt for months to come.
“The Sydney basin provides a number of lines at this time – living lettuce, corn, and other leafy veg,” Tristan Harris, co-CEO of Harris Farm Markets, told Inside Retail.
“Queensland has suffered heavy damage that will result in planting gaps, which will be felt eight to 12 weeks from now.”
While Harris Farm Markets can cover these gaps by sourcing food from other parts of Australia, farmers in the affected areas don’t have the ability to simply start growing their crops elsewhere.
“Each farm will have different levels of impact and its own unique set of circumstances will call for a unique path to recovery,” Harris said.
“Some have lost crops, some have lost the ability to plant, some the ability to harvest, some the ability to ship product to market, and some have lost loads of their valuable topsoil and its nutrients.
“Some will face a long uphill battle and others will be relatively untouched and may get a premium for their product due to shortages elsewhere.
“The better growers and those in better financial shape will bank this for when their turn comes to face the challenges that nature throws at farmers every year. Others will unfortunately not be in a position to recover from this event.”