Retail struggle in January 2020

Australian retail is now heading into the final stretch of what has been a surreal, challenging and bizarre year for the sector and life in general. It’s hard to believe that we are now just some six weeks away from Christmas.

Getting our Victorian members to reopen their doors again has certainly been a priority as we head into the festive season. To ensure that those of you in Victoria are adequately equipped to hit the ground running again, the NRA is here to help. Specifically, we will be offering advice over our Workplace Relations Hotline free of charge to members and non-members until 30 November 2020.

I strongly encourage any of you with queries to contact our hotline on 1800 RETAIL (738 245). This will put you in touch with a member of our team who can provide the necessary information to help you reopen your business safely and successfully. Victorian members can also download our Retail Reopening factsheet here which contains straightforward information and access to various resources to assist you with operating in a COVID-safe way.

Last week’s ABS retail trade report for September underlined just how volatile the current landscape is. Although turnover fell by a disappointing 1.1 per cent compared to August 2020, the September result was 5.6 per cent above the corresponding result in September 2019.

The report also revealed mixed results across the retail sector. Food, household goods, clothing, footwear and personal accessories, and department stores all recorded a reduced level of turnover. However, cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services recorded a solid growth of 3.5 per cent thanks to the continued lifting of business restrictions.

Supplementary COVID-19 analysis also contained in the ABS report examined the changing nature of online retail. Digital channels, particularly click-and-collect, have grown substantially during the pandemic as many of you were forced to adjust your services to maintain revenue streams.

Indeed, online retail turnover in September 2020 performed nearly 75 per cent above the same period last year. With shops across the country now reopened, albeit with restrictions, we can expect to see the rate of online sales to gradually reduce. However, there is certainly a permanent shift in consumer behaviour occurring and digital avenues will remain key for many businesses moving forward.

November will also see several online shopping events occur, beginning with Click Frenzy this week. This will then be followed at the end of the month with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, two events that will offer shoppers Christmas shopping bargains.

Speaking of Christmas, the end of this week will mark the formal beginning of the Christmas trade period and with shops across the country now reopened, we are hopeful about the prospects of retail experiencing a healthy Christmas period. The NRA will be unveiling our sales forecasts for this year’s festive season shortly.

The final six weeks of the calendar year are always the most important time of year for retail, but in 2020 Christmas will take on added significance. Following a turbulent year, large revenue gains between now and the end of the year will be crucial to many of you. In the meantime, we welcome any feedback on how your business is travelling during the Christmas period.

Meanwhile, the NRA has also been busy with numerous industry activities. Last week we conducted a webinar in partnership with Luemo Workplace Wellbeing on personal and professional resilience. The mental wellbeing of those who work in the retail sector is something we all care about and this issue has only become more prevalent during COVID-19. Margaret Aboody provided an insightful presentation that covered the following topics:

  • The definition of resilience.
  • Why personal and team resilience is important.
  • How to build personal resilience.
  • What is psychological safety and why this is important to support a resilient workplace?
  • The components of a resilient workplace.

For those who were unable to attend, I encourage you to check out a recording of the presentation here.

Finally, this coming Thursday, Legal Director Lindsay Carroll will be taking part in a webinar hosted by the French-Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (FACCI). The event brings together elected representatives, industry leaders and academics to discuss the role that cities play in generating wealth. Lindsay will be moderating a panel discussion titled ‘Retail: the true lifeblood of vibrant cities?’ along with Jean Conrié, Managing Director, Le Creuset Australia & New Zealand; Emilie Festaz, Head of Communications, Simone Perele; and Pierre-Emmanuel Joffre, Managing Director, L’OCCITANE Group. I’m sure it will be an interesting discussion and look forward to providing any interesting feedback in next week’s column.

All the best for the week ahead.