“I thought why not,” she said. “Our customers don’t want anything else.”
However, Ms Yeaman was shocked to receive hundreds of negative comments claiming Costume Box was taking advantage of the crisis.
“Disgraceful profiteering. You should be ashamed. I will not be purchasing from your store again,” one person commented on Facebook.
“Perhaps if you had any genuine concern for the welfare of your customers, you would recommend they buy reliable, inexpensive, effective sanitisers from Chemist Warehouse or other pharmacies. Instead you have demonstrated that all you care about is your company. After this scare people will remember how you behave now,” said another.
Ms Yeaman has responded to each negative comment individually and said she is not profiteering and is making less margin on the wipes than the business normally would on costumes.
“I say ‘It has nothing to do with costumes and that is precisely the point right now’,” Ms Yeaman said. “I have always kept a low profile and tried to push the business forward but I have had to stick my head out there and stand up for my company and staff.”
Neil Druce, the owner of Corowa Distilling Co and Junee Licorice & Chocolate Factory, said he was concerned about accusations of benefiting from the crisis when he made the decision to start producing hand sanitiser, but the majority of feedback has been supportive.
Mr Druce said the whisky and chocolate factories, which turned over around $8 million a year, were both tourism and events focused, so, when the new hospitality business regulations came into effect, sales “virtually dried up overnight”.
In a bid to keep his 100 staff employed, Mr Druce shifted to hand sanitiser after getting a call from Victoria’s Health Department, and the two factories are now producing 5000 litres of hand sanitiser a day and can’t keep up with demand.
“Obviously some people are profiteering and charging crazy prices, we are just charging a little more than it costs to produce and we are also donating sanitiser to the local hospitals,” he said. “Every so often someone on social media will say it’s a bit expensive, but it’s not water, its 80 per cent alcohol. The majority of people say thank you for doing this because there is a desperate need for it.”
Stuart Gregor, the co-owner of Four Pillars gin in the Yarra Valley, which has also started producing hand sanitiser, said there might’ve been one or two folks posting something negative “somewhere in the great void” but his customers have generally been very supportive.
“They love the fact we are doing something really positive, that we are able to keep many staff employed who would otherwise be on JobSeeker and that we are still making gin,” he said. “That appears to be the most often held fear – that by making sanitiser we will run out of gin – won’t happen.”
Cara is the small business editor for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald based in Melbourne