Bookseller boss worried by slow post lockdown return to city centre
26 November 2021
John Forsyth, chairman of Dymocks Group, one of Australia’s oldest booksellers, is concerned local government isn’t doing enough to rejuvenate Sydney’s CBD, particularly in the wake of recent pandemic imposed lockdowns. He isn’t alone. Businesses in other commercial centres across Greater Sydney are also feeling the pinch. They’re urging municipal councils, many of whom are facing elections in early December, to do more to bring people back into city centres.
But I’m not sure it’s that simple, and other ways to support struggling businesses may need to be considered. Some workers don’t want to return to central business districts. Having been forced to work from home, many are content to stay there. And who can blame them? Working from home means less time lost to commuting, commuting in the first instance, and more time to spend with the family, and on other things they find important. These people are still supporting small businesses, but ones closer to home, rather than in the city.
It’s long been my thought that advances in technology were always going to bring about this sort of shift in work practises eventually, the pandemic simply hastened the inevitable. What happens in the few months will be pivotal. Many organisations are paying rent on buildings that are virtually unoccupied. How will they respond? By instructing workers to return? Or by scaling down office space? But with some workers looking to relocate to rural regions, and renewed talk of four day working weeks, will we ever see the return of city workers to pre-pandemic levels?