Retail struggle in January 2020

A week ago today, the Victorian Government announced Stage 3 Lockdown measures would be reimposed on metropolitan Melbourne and the Shire of Mitchell. Over the past two days, there is now a recommendation to wear face masks within these regions in order to contain the spread of the virus. It is not the time for complacency – unless social distancing and hygiene is maintained, any city in Australia could face similar conditions.

It’s been a difficult time for businesses right across the country, but returning to Stage 3 lockdown could be fatal for businesses in Melbourne.  For Victorian members, the State Government has launched a new $534 million Business Support Package, providing more support to help businesses and workers through to the other side of the pandemic. The package contains numerous funding measures ranging from assistance for small business to mental health support and further information can be found at the Government’s dedicated website.

Concerns of a second-wave emanating from Victoria have been exacerbated by photos of queues outside nightclubs in Brisbane and Sydney showing patrons failing to comply with social distancing. At the time of writing, it has also been revealed at least four Sydney pubs and clubs have been linked to positive coronavirus cases, sparking fears of further community transmission. The Canterbury League Club, Star Casino, Crossroads Hotel and Picton Hotel are in the headlines for the wrong reasons today, having been forced to close due to confirmed cases attending the venues. Just this morning, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian made the following announcements surrounding pub and club venues:

  1. A cap of 300 guests at major venues.
  2. Venues with capacity for more than 250 guests must have a full-time COVID-19 Safety Marshall on duty at all times.
  3. Venues with capacity for fewer than 250 guests must have a COVID-19 Safety Marshall on duty at peak times.
  4. Registration for all guests is mandatory, via electronic means where possible for legibility and ease of review.
  5. Group bookings are reduced from 20 guests to 10 guests to reduce standing in venue and mingling.

Further, the Queensland Government has blacklisted two New South Wales COVID-19 hotspots, meaning residents from this suburbs will need to go into hotel quarantine if they visit the Sunshine State.  From midday, the new rules will apply to anyone who has been to Liverpool or Campbelltown in the past 14 days.

The South Australian Government has also announced that due to the spike in cases, the border will not be reopening to New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory as was scheduled for 20 July.

At the end of the day, the retail sector can only control the way we operate. This means we all need to remain disciplined when it comes to complying and enforcing the relevant restrictions to ensure we avoid a spike in infections. A nationwide second-wave would have a devastating impact across the country, with the economic side-effects from the first round of lockdowns already taking a demonstrable toll on the economy. As we have throughout this pandemic, we will continue to keep you all fully updated on any developments relating to COVID-19.

If your business is struggling with the effects of COVID-19, and you would like further information on what government grants and supports are available, we would advise all members to reach out to our finance partners, Vincent’s Chartered Accountants. Vincent’s have a variety of services available on their hotline, including stimulus relief assistance, grants assistance, and bank relief assistance.

And in regards to finances, the National Retail Association welcomes the announcement by the Australian Banking Association that banks will extend the business loan repayment deferral period by another four months. This next phase of bank support will avoid a ‘cliff’ for customers in September and give them the breathing space they need to work with their bank and get back on their feet financially.

Also, last week‘s legal update and the announcements by some retailers about store closures in Victoria provides a sage reminder that there are limits to JobKeeper stand down directions under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), namely that they must be reasonable in all of the circumstances. For advice on stand down, contact our expert workplace relations team on 1800 RETAIL.

All the best for the week and keep well.