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Covid-19: The Social Outfit – ‘Social connection is why we are here’

NEWTOWN: When we asked The Social Outfit (TSO) what will help them survive the impact of Covid–19 they said please shop online.

TSO is an independently–accredited, ethical trading social enterprise that provides employment and training in the fashion industry to people from refugee and new migrant communities in clothing production, retail, design and marketing. It believes that tapping into the creativity of refugee communities can lead to empowerment and social inclusion.

How is Covid–19 affecting your service and numbers?
We’ve seen a definite fall in foot traffic and sales as the situation progresses. Our store on King Street in Newtown has been very quiet even on what are normally our busier days. We’re hoping for more online orders as more people begin to work from home and self–isolate.

Can you tell us about any innovative ways you’ve found to maintain customer relationships, and/or continue to provide your service or sell your goods to people who need them?
Our focus during these challenging times is being as transparent as possible to our community and our supporters, and maintaining communication with them, whether it’s through our newsletter, social media or The Social Journal – our blog. We’ve found that reaching out to our supporters is the best way to maintain our relationship with them, to update them on our store hours and to remind them that they can always shop online with us! In response to Covid–19 we hope and expect to see an uptake in online orders, so we’re offering free domestic shipping for any orders over $150 – to make our online service just a little more accessible for our supporters!

What measures have you taken to safeguard people’s health?
Aside from implementing increased hygiene measures, we are continuing to implement our Pandemic Policy, as swiftly adopted and passed down from our board – meaning that our education and outreach programs have been temporarily suspended to support the efforts in flattening the curve. We’ve encouraged our staff to work from home where possible, and to take personal and annual leave to ensure that they are close to their families and being supported. We’ve also set up communication networks such as our staff WhatsApp group to ensure that we’re all staying close as a team, checking in on each other and maintaining that human connection that is so vital in a time where we feel so disconnected from one another. You can read more in our letter to our community here: https://thesocialoutfit.org/blogs/the-social-journal

What support have you received from governments or local business hubs to help you as you weather the Covid–19 pandemic?
We have been actively trying to be a part of the conversation taking place alerting our community and supporters about the impact the pandemic is having upon businesses, particularly small businesses that lack the financial means to weather the storm. We have not received any support from government or local business hubs yet, but hope that will come soon!

If you work with disadvantaged people, what extra impact are Covid–19 restrictions or closures having on them? What extra help is needed to meet their needs at this time?
The uncertainty of the pandemic is stressful for any individual, not to mention the more vulnerable members of our community The Social Outfit works with (we exist to provide employment and training to refugees and new migrants). We’re doing our best to support them while we can – reaching out and keeping in regular communication with them while also accommodating work schedules and remote working situations. We feel that providing a source of human connection can alleviate a lot of the tension and stress that is rising, and take their minds off the pandemic – even if just for a little while.

What is helping you to stay positive?
Definitely our WhatsApp group! We update each other on what we’re doing, where we’re working from and what we get up to during the day! Sometimes pets and families make guest appearances, and it’s important to find joy and laughter where we can (look at the image with this story)!

How can our local communities best stick together?
Remember that we’re all in this together, and to reach out to each other. We need to be united during these difficult times, whether that means reaching out to each other on social media, giving someone a call or even having a virtual party! If we can just hold close to each other – not physically but emotionally – we’ll see it through. On a more practical level however, supporting local business that is doing it tough – we generally try to discourage mindless consumerism, but shopping online at local businesses, purchasing gift cards, furthering uplifting communications – these are all very active steps we can take to stick together and to support those who need it!

If you could say one thing to South Sydney Herald readers what would it be? We can only do our best – let’s hold on to our values and to each other and take each day together.

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UPDATE: On March 26, The Social Outfit decided to close the doors of its retail store at 188 King Street, Newtown to ensure the wellbeing, health and safety of its team and community. Its online shop is open and you can visit @TheSocialOutfit on Facebook for a guide to how best support The Social Outfit and other small, local businesses.See https://thesocialoutfit.org/

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