Several Wimmera and Grampians businesses are experiencing an increase in patronage since the COVID-19 shutdown started.
As the nation continues to adapt to the shutdown of non-essential services and the subsequent economic fallout, some businesses are scrambling to meet the demand.
Numerous pharmacies in the region are seeing a steady growth in enquiries, sales and bookings since the start of March.
Healthcare products from pharmacies in demand
TerryWhite Chemmart Horsham pharmacist Stuart Hall said the increased activity was logical.
"We've seen more customers since the virus became a reality in Australia," he said.
"We have also seen an uptick in flu shots, which I believe is driven by mainstream media.
"The good thing is we have a good supply of flu shots and I don't believe anyone will miss out.
"People just need to be patient and not panic."
Mr Hall said the Firebrace Street pharmacy had increased its workforce to meet the demand.
"We haven't put on any extra staff; however, we have had a lot of 'helpers'.
"It is impossible to recruit people the normal way - we can't sit down and do an interview.
"We're doing things on the run by bringing in family members to help us out.
"Behind the scenes, we are frantically working."
Feed them meat: Butcher's sales up
Just up the street, Horsham's Woody's Top Cut Meats manager Gary Taylor is working overtime to meet the demand.
"We are flat-out - it has been choc-a-block for the past five weeks," he said.
"People were buying up when news of the pandemic first hit and now they are buying up because of Easter.
"We are working extra hours to meet the demand because we can't train anyone safely at this time of the year.
"We've got people working with knives, people rushing around the store, proper food handling to consider.
"Covering off of that is impossible at the moment so we're loading up on our hours."
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Business surprisingly normal for outdoor gear specialist
In Ararat, Tanya McKinnis, the manager of outdoor specialist store Lyal Eales Ararat, said business was steady despite a public ban on camping.
"It's been quite steady, surprisingly; we've had a few lull days over the past couple of weeks, but there's still a lot of people out and about," she said.
"Every day is different, but I'm still surprised there's still a lot of people out and about."
Mrs McKinnis said customers were buying everyday items, especially toilet paper, along with methylated spirits.
"I'm still surprised there's still quite a few and the street's quite busy," she said.
"People are doing a lot of odd jobs around the house. People are still coming in finding resources for that sort of thing.
"After 3pm in the arvo, the streets become very quiet, that's the only significant thing I've noticed."
She was unsure whether the business would remain open in the long-term.
"(Owner Lyal Eales) has eight stores, it's up to him if he stays open," she said.
Open and struggling: Hospitality and retail
The hospitality and retail sectors have been hit particularly hard by the shutdown.
Ararat's Sania Sarin opened the Desi SwagIndian Restaurant on Barkly Street in December.
Since the start of the COVID-19 shutdown, she's seen business plummet by 70 per cent.
The licensed dine-in, bring-your-own and takeaway restaurant is now earning income only from meagre takeaway orders.
"Income from drinks and BYO is completely zero now," Ms Sarin said.
With orders drying up, Ms Sarin expanded the restaurant's hours to be open seven days a week, yet takeaway orders still dwindled to three or four a day.
"We're hoping to stay open as long as possible. It's really hard," she said.
Stuck at home: best make it nice
Hermans of Horsham owner Ray Herman said while trade in his homewares store was down reasonably, the average sale amount had increased.
"There have been more people who have been coming in for specific things that they thought we had or know that we carry," he said.
Mr Herman said the store was seeing a rise in customer enquiries by phone and online.
"More people are contacting us prior to coming in really just to limit their need to be drifting around the street," he said.
"We haven't had anywhere near the number of people that would come in and browse.
"Probably the biggest difference in the shop itself is from the front we're not making it as inviting as maybe we would normally for people that would browse, and within the store we've opened up much more space so people can be much more spread out."
The automatic doors at the front of the store have been turned off and a sign is affixed to the slightly ajar door explaining only two customers are allowed in the store at a time.
Inside the store there are blue crosses laid out using tape to indicate where people should stand to keep their distance.
Mr Herman said the most popular purchases were cookware and catering products, along with cocktail shakers and glasses.
"The other area has been fragrant candles because I think people cooped up at home are realising they want to change the environment they're living in a little bit," he said.
Mr Herman said they were "delivering much more than they had ever done in the past" and had taken an item as far as Kiata.
Move to online orders
Horsham's My Bow-tique owner Karen Wood said physical trade in her fashion store had "pretty much stopped" despite the store still being open to customers.
"I have Facebook, so that's helped," she said. "I have been putting (products) online.
"But we don't get anyone travelling, a lot of our customers are usually travellers. People have stopped shopping."
Mrs Wood said people who came into the shop were wanting to buy something they had seen online and were able to try it on in store.
"They can use the dressing room," she said. "There has been lots of confusion about what people are allowed to do.
"I'm wiping everything down but I can't get any hand sanitiser."
Mrs Wood said she had reduced opening hours to 11am to 2pm daily but wasn't able to offer shifts to her casual employees.
"I have two casual girls but I can't offer them work," she said. "Sometimes I might get one sale, maybe two."
She said her staff probably wouldn't apply for the JobKeeper program with her because they had other jobs where they worked more hours, so they would likely apply with them.
Publican Mark Fitterer of Horsham's Victoria Hotel said it was frustrating to see people queuing up at the KFC while he was employing four full-time chefs to keep the kitchen running.
"We're doing take-away pizza deals, pasta take-away specials, family deals - we're even doing our own special Victoria fried chicken," he said.
"We're taking a chance and hope people can support us. We have to keep our staff employed."
At Horsham's Cheeky Fox Cafe, owner Helen Harris described the situation across town as "pretty bad".
"We are staying open for our customers," she said.
The cafe will be shut over the Easter weekend, unable to cover the cost of penalty rates which she said would "break the business".
"We're barely covering normal wages," she said.
'Polar opposite' Easter in Stawell
Foot traffic into Stawell's SportsPower store is down dramatically.
Owners Robyn and Shane Young estimated their sales had dropped off at least 50 percent, but the pair was determined to stay open.
"We'll stay open until we're told that we can't," Ms Young said.
"Initially when the gyms closed, people were buying home fitness gear.
"Now it's things to keep the family amused - like a table tennis table or small games they can do inside.
"People aren't allowed to fish, we're not selling any of that at all."
The Easter weekend is traditionally the town's busiest because of the famed Stawell Gift.
Ms Young said she'd normally have 10 staff in store on the Saturday. This year she's reduced hours and kept on one staff member.
"It'll be the polar opposite to what it's ever been," she said.
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