Victorian lockdown is threatening the survival of the state’s retail sector: Australian Retailers Association

Australias peak retail industry body fears Victorias ongoing lockdown measures will have dire consequences for the national economy and will push a number of businesses to the brink of collapse.The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) says the Victorian government’s strict measures to curb the threat of the coronavirus pandemic will cause greater harm to the state’s largest private sector employer — potentially forcing a slew of retailers to permanently fold.
ARA chief executive Paul Zahra said Premier Daniel Andrew’s highly anticipated road map out of lockdown failed to mention any further financial support for businesses facing up to 16 weeks of foregone revenue streams.
“We were expecting to get a staged reopening and that’s what we were led to believe, but what we ended up with was a delayed reopening,” he said.
“Small and medium retailers will be under the most pressure and in fact most of them will not survive.”
Holding an emergency meeting with some of Australia’s largest retailers on Monday, Mr Zahra said major players were “angry and dismayed” about the decision, feeling iced out from consultation on what delays to reopening would mean for the sector’s viability.
“We have a very good relationship with the Victorian government but this has surprised me,” he said.
“The word consultation has been used very loosely … they are more information sessions.”
The ARA is calling for greater clarity and consistency about when retailers will be able to trade under COVIDsafe measures, with the majority of the industry concerned about whether the lockdown will dent the Christmas trading period.
“This will impact the whole supply chain for the country, not just Victoria,” Mr Zahra said.
According to the state’s road map out of lockdown, the earliest retailers will be able to open doors will be October 26, if daily new case numbers are fewer than five.
If the target number is not met by the scheduled date, it potentially means shutdown measures could be extended, further hindering retailers’ ability to recommence operations.
AMP chief economist Shane Oliver said Victoria’s ongoing shutdown could stifle Australia’s projected economic growth for the December quarter, which was tipped to rise by 2.5 per cent.
Mr Oliver said that number could be revised down to 1-1.5 per cent due to ongoing shutdown measures smothering economic activity.
“By extending the lockdown, it will slow Victoria’s economy and dent the national recovery,” he said.
Mr Zahra also said the metric set by the state government was less than the numbers being recorded in New South Wales, which has evaded a full second lockdown.
“I would have liked to have seen an evidence-based approach,” he said.
“We have very little evidence of transmission occurring in retail-based activity. If you look at the supermarkets we have shown that we can trade safely.”
Retailers have already incurred a significant rise in costs due to the pandemic, implementing COVIDsafe measures such as perspex glass and additional cleaning to minimise the threat of transmission.
Victoria’s retail industry employs roughly 1.3 million people.