Retail struggle in January 2020

Last week the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released its labour force figures and unsurprisingly it was sobering news. Seasonally adjusted, the employment level fell by 594,300 people between March and April.

Although the official unemployment rate only came through at 6.2 per cent, this does not account for people who lost their job and have given up trying to find work. Most experts therefore suggest that the true unemployment rate is around the 9 per cent mark.

The impact of lockdown restrictions has also seen total hours worked fall by 9.2 per cent between March and April. While youth unemployment – covering workers aged 15 to 24 – rose to 13. 8 per cent. As the largest employer of young people of any sector in the Australian economy, this further underlines how badly retail has been hit over the past two months.

It is true that Australians are starting to head back to the shops, but the reality is retail will not be fully back up on its feet until all restrictions are eventually lifted. Keeping in mind the sector was struggling before Coronavirus, it’s important the public don’t mistake a few anecdotal experiences of busy shopping centres with meaning that retail has recovered. NRA members are going to continue to need assistance from all levels of government if we’re to minimise the jobless figure resulting from COVID-19.

We are starting to see states and territories roll back social distancing restrictions at differing rates. See below for what is allowed to re-open, and the requirements for re-opening.

New South Wales Victoria

(Reopening restaurants and cafes)

Queensland* South Australia
Western Australia** Tasmania Northern Territory*** Australian Capital Territory

*Queensland Restaurants and Café’s and Beauty Therapists and Nail Salons are required to complete a COVID safe checklist and have the completed checklist on public display at their premises. You can download the checklist HERE.

** Western Australia requires all businesses that were closed by the directions under the Emergency Management Act to complete a COVID Safety Plan prior to reopening and display a COVID Safety Plan Certificate in a visible location on the premise.  Food businesses and sports and recreation venues are required to complete specific COVID Safety Plans. Read more here.

***The Northern Territory requires food businesses, personal services businesses (including beauty therapy, massage therapy and nail salons), business and community organisations, and sport and active recreation organisations, to read their applicable guidelines for Business Restart and complete the applicable COVID-19 checklist. Read more HERE.

Meanwhile, respective state governments are continuing to ease restrictions on business. Each jurisdiction is moving at their own pace, but last weekend saw numerous states allow 10 people to dine in at cafes and restaurants. For many businesses, particularly restaurants, this measure won’t be enough to generate profit but it’s a start and if the number of active COVID-19 cases continue to fall this restriction will be lifted further.

We’re also continuing to monitor the JobKeeper program. There’s a lot of discussion regarding whether the scheme will need to be extended and if any further amendments are required to how it operates. With the viability of tens of thousands of small businesses hanging in the balance, the government can’t afford to get this policy wrong and we will continue to advocate to them on your behalf.

All the best for the week and keep well.