Seven week delay on retail reopening a devastating blow says Australian Retailers Association

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has welcomed the roadmap out of restrictions delivered today by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews but said the protracted delays to retail reopening – with a further seven week delay – will be a death sentence for many Melbourne retailers.

ARA CEO Paul Zahra said retailers expected and accept the need for a staged and safe return to regular activities within Victoria, but the ARA is very disappointed by the target date of 26 October for a return to any regular retail activity, given retail’s exemplary and safe performance.

“Melbourne retailers will have been subject to lockdown for 13 weeks at that point – and some hair and beauty salons have been closed for 5 months, which is unprecedented,” said Mr Zahra. “Without further financial support, this will certainly permanently wipe out a large number of small businesses and see the closure of many Victorian stores by national retailers.

“An evidence based approach should account for the fact that when retailers comply with Covid safe plans, shopping is one of the safest activities in a Covid world. In Australia, we have very little evidence of transmissions occurring during retail based activity and our retailers have worked extremely hard and spared no expense to create that outcome.

“Whilst we appreciate the increased transparency around target numbers for infections, with the rhetoric shifting to ‘living with Covid’ globally, we believe it is unrealistic to target single digit daily case rates before reopening. NSW has remained open and on track with double digit performance of around 10 – 18 daily cases during much of August,” said Mr Zahra.

“Supermarkets and other essential services areas have provided a good model in many areas – the shopping safety protocols have been working.

“The impact of this health crisis is no longer contained to just a virus. The lockdown fatigue is having a devastating impact on other health issues including mental health and of course protracting the economic crisis.

“We would like to see national consistency and a return to more regular shopping experiences – but with a safety overlay which might include reduced number of household representatives shopping.

“Many retailers make the majority of their profits in this shopping period between now and January and every week lost is a devastating blow.

“There is also a safety concern around compressing this activity into a very short number of weeks ahead of Christmas. It would make more sense to have started the staged reopening earlier,” said Mr Zahra.

“We are pleased to see the reopening of warehouses and distribution, which is an area we have been strongly championing. Victoria is the freight and distribution capital of Australia and this means the Victorian restrictions are putting enormous pressure on the supply chains nationally,” said Mr Zahra.

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