ARA calls for realistic plan:Vic retail back on restart rollercoaster days before Xmas trading start

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) today said it is deeply concerned by further delays to the retail restart, calling on the Victorian Government to embrace a hot spot plan for outbreak management similar to NSW.


ARA CEO Paul Zahra said hope had again turned to despair today for retailers with Premier Dan Andrew’s message that it is still “not safe” to open despite a rolling average of 4.6 cases – below the original 5 case target for next stage easing.  


Mr Zahra called for retail staff to be allowed immediate access to their ‘dark’ stores to begin Covid-safety and Christmas preparations while the state waits on the latest test results.


“We know from the last lockdown when retail reopened, there was pent-up demand for consumers wanting to hit the shops. Retailers make up to two-thirds of their profits at this time of year and that cash has never been more desperately needed. We need to stick to a firm reopening date to give the retail sector time to prepare their staff and their customers,” he said.  


“Every day we get closer to Christmas will create a greater safety challenge to retailers in managing pent up demand and crowds. Not only are businesses needing to prepare for any Covid-related measures, they also need to be getting ready for Christmas, which includes potentially hiring extra workers and ordering and merchandising new inventory,” he said.  


Mr Zahra said the State must accept we are now living with Covid and introduce realistic plans to navigate the Covid clusters that will inevitably spring up regardless of lockdowns.


“We can no longer say there is no alternative, when we can see successful alternative paths to managing these outbreaks within NSW. We must start taking care of both lives and livelihoods or the broader health and business consequences will be catastrophic,” he said.


Recently the World Health Organisation said they do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of controlling the virus beyond the initial preparation time to get health services in order.


Mr Zahra said every day counts in managing customer expectations and spreading demand and to keep struggling retailers afloat.


“The extended lockdowns are destroying thousands of retail jobs – and whilst retailers are doing everything they can to stay optimistic and keep their teams employed, many can’t hold on much longer. Every day of delay is costing us more jobs - most of which are held by women and young people,” he said.


“The retail sector employs one in ten Australians. A quarter of the country’s retail sales come from Victoria, and as the logistics capital of the country, most retail warehousing and distribution is based in Victoria,” he said.   


“Melbourne SMB retailers are on the edge of collapse, living without an income for many months,” he said. 

Mr Zahra said the flow-on effects from Victorian retail lockdowns are being felt around the country. 


“Victoria plays such a vital role in the national retail industry. It is the heart of the distribution and warehousing and it makes up a quarter of national retail sales. It’s not Christmas without Victoria,” he said.


ENDS…for more details: ARA Media Team (m) 0431 045 373 (e) media@retail.org.au About us: founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association is Australia’s largest retail association, representing a $340bn sector employing more than 1.2m people. As Australia’s premier retail body, the ARA works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,500 independent and national retail members. To learn more, visit www.retail.org.au or call 1300 368 041.


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