The Executive Director of the Australian Retailers Association, Russell Zimmerman, has pleaded with Australian consumers to support local retail businesses, restaurants and cafes, saying that whilst the spectre of novel Coronavirus was real the threat in Australia was low, and that fear of it was literally killing jobs and businesses.

Mr Zimmerman noted reports retail, tourism and hospitality operators – especially Chinese restaurants – were facing downturns of 50%-70% and made an impassioned call for public support, saying “livelihoods are at stake.”

“The ARA urges Australians to show their support for local businesses – be they retail, tourism or hospitality-based – in the face of what seems like just the latest in a list of threats to their viability,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“We understand people may be frightened by news reports about Coronavirus they may have seen or read, but we would add that the actual risk to the public in Australia at this time appears very, very low,” he added.

Mr Zimmerman asked people to balance the very real impact the virus was having in China against the fact that as of today’s date, it had caused a single known fatality outside Asia – in France at the weekend.

“While things may change – and obviously we’re as concerned as anybody about Coronavirus becoming a real problem in Australia – for now it seems people’s fears are premature, but are having a big impact,” he said.

Mr Zimmerman said stories of deserted shopping malls, empty restaurants and businesses struggling to stay open were a cruel blow after a summer that had hit parts of the country with drought, bushfires and then floods.

“There are livelihoods at stake here: those of the hardworking mums and dads who’ve put everything on the line to open a business, and those of the staff they employ whose jobs are in real danger of being lost,” he said.

“If we lose iconic local retailers, or tourist operators offering unique experiences, or loved restaurants and cafes that are forced to close, we won’t get them back – and that compounds the potential loss here,” he added.

Mr Zimmerman said unless public health bulletins directed otherwise, the best thing people could do was to go about their lives, and support businesses that underpinned communities in cities and towns across the country.

“I just implore people to keep a sense of perspective and to be realistic: right now the risk from Coronavirus in Australia is minimal, and I urge Australians not to turn their backs on businesses that have already faced significant headwinds this summer when one more blow could prove fatal,” Mr Zimmerman concluded.

ENDS…for more details: Tim Janczuk (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 $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.

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