Retail struggle in January 2020

As the voice of modern retail, the National Retail Association speaks up for our sector on important issues and – more importantly – works to develop solutions to help members and the wider industry.  Sometimes it can be very frustrating that these important issues don’t receive the serious consideration they deserve in the media.  So I had mixed feelings in the last week to finally get some media attention on our very important Protecting Crowded Places program, which the association delivered in conjunction with the Federal Government.

This program flowed from the Government’s 2017 report into protecting crowded places from terrorism, which warned in its opening sentence that “shopping centres, pedestrian malls, and major events will continue to be attractive targets for terrorists”. The NRA developed a proposal to work with the Department of Homeland Security to help retail staff understand how to deal with potential terrorist activity, which we submitted in March of 2018.  Following the Bourke St Mall attack in November of that year, we asked for the application to be considered again, and we were successful in receiving the grant funding in February 2019.

We used the $880,000 from the Federal Government to deliver training in responding to an armed assailant to nearly 48,000 retail workers in 8000 locations Australia wide.  We also developed and delivered posters, brochures and online information.  The training and material helps people to decide how to respond – when to report an incident, when to escape and how to hide if escaping is not an option.

It’s certainly disappointing that the media, particularly the ABC, have tried to denigrate and politicise  this very important program. The NRA is very proud of the fact that we are the only retail association to have identified the risk to retail workers and taken steps to address that risk. (Although at least they had the good grace to acknowledge that the program was absolutely in compliance with the funding guidelines, and had been approved by the Department of Homeland Security after a rigorous application process.)

Every time there is a terror attack, experts in the media demand to know why more wasn’t done to prepare people and help them know how to respond.  I’m very proud of the great team we have here at the NRA who identified the need for this training and then worked with the government to ensure retailers could access it at no cost.  Frankly, it would have been a serious failure of an industry association to not have acted on those warnings in the 2017 report.

Like all good industry associations, the NRA engages with both sides of politics at both the state and federal levels. That’s not so we can receive some kind of special treatment, but rather so that the people who make the decisions affecting your businesses and livelihoods hear from us about what’s really happening in the world.  As I said at the start, we are the voice of modern retail, and we owe it to the industry never to miss an opportunity to make that voice heard.

In this case, we have delivered vital training for 48,000 retailer workers.  I pray that they never have to use it to protect themselves and their customers from an armed assailant.  But if they ever do, it will truly show the value of good preparation and planning. The NRA is proud to be able to provide this kind of support to the industry.