The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has welcomed the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) final determination published today granting extended authorisation for ARA members to bargain collectively and share information in relation to commercial leases until 1 September 2021.
Paul Zahra, CEO of the ARA, said the ARA led initiative was a significant win for its retail members who continue to be severely impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.
“The pandemic pain is far from over, and this week’s shift into severe stage 4 restrictions within Victoria demonstrates the impacts of COVID-19 on retailers will extend well beyond September this year,” Mr Zahra said.
“Rent remains one of the most critical pain points for retailers. The ARA strongly advocated for this extension of the ACCC collective bargaining authority and we are in discussions with government about the extension of the National Cabinet’s Mandatory Code of Conduct for commercial leases to assist smaller retailers within each state,” he said.
Mr Zahra said the Code currently expires in September in most states and territories, leaving many struggling independent retailers with deep uncertainty about their future financial position.
“This pandemic has underscored the importance of landlords and their retail tenants working together to ensure the sector is positioned for a strong and sustainable recovery. We urge all landlords to negotiate in good faith, and create a win-win situation for landlords and tenants to support the wider economic recovery,” Mr Zahra said.
“This ACCC decision will help our members continue to share information and bargain collectively with landlords to secure crucial rent relief during this challenging time,” he said.
“If there’s a silver lining to the otherwise tough trading conditions this year, it is the consistent growth in online trading which we expect to shift from 10 per cent to 20 per cent over the coming two years. Omnichannel retail operations are a critical growth tool for retailers and during Covid restrictions provide an important hedge against the closure of physical stores,” Mr Zahra said.
The ACCC’s authorisation is subject to record keeping and reporting conditions. This draft determination follows the ACCC’s decision on 22 April 2020 to grant interim authorisation to the ARA while the ACCC considered the substantive application.
The full ACCC determination can be accessed here.
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About us: founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association is Australia’s largest retail association, representing a $325bn sector employing more than 1.3m 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.