Retail struggle in January 2020

One month into 2021 and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take centre-stage.

On Sunday, Western Australia became the latest state to impose a short-term, hard-lockdown following a hotel quarantine guard contracting the virus. The WA lockdown is due to last until this coming Friday, depending on the size and scope of any further cases.

Unfortunately, what this most recent lockdown has again underlined is the importance of government to engage with the business community to ensure clear and consistent directives. Feedback from our WA members has demonstrated that there are retailers who are able to technically open during this five-day lockdown, but whose staff are unable to leave home to attend work. There has also been confusion regarding retailers who operate distribution centres, with ambiguity over whether they’re able to transport stock from the port to stores and if they’re able to unpack that same stock.

The NRA has publicly called on the Western Australian Government to urgently address these issues. Not only does the confusion impact business operations, but retailers also face substantial fines for violating lockdown laws. We hope that these concerns are addressed by the government immediately.

In other news, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has ruled out extending the JobKeeper program beyond the scheduled March deadline. This was then followed by the Prime Minister yesterday outlining the Commonwealth Government’s vaccine rollout strategy, estimated to cost a total of $6.3 billion and begin in late February.

We certainly hope for a speedy and efficient rollout of the vaccine, but we need to remain mindful that economically we are not out of the woods until we have widespread vaccinations. In the last month alone we have had two states impose hard lockdowns and this remains a continued possibility in the short-term. Should there be a delay in rolling out the vaccine and we experience further hard-lockdowns within any state jurisdictions then an extension to financial support programs for business will need to be considered.

Finally, Lunar New Year is just around the corner with February 12 to mark the end of the Year of the Rat, and the beginning of the Year of the Ox. While as of yesterday we have turned the NRA website red in the lead up to the Lunar New Year.

The absence of Chinese tourism stands to impact key tourist destinations such as Sydney, Cairns and the Gold Coast with short-term tourism from China during this period exceeding 200,000 people in recent years. Retailers in these areas stand to miss out on the discretionary spending that occurs at the shops from these tourists. For those of you operating in traditional tourist hotspots for Chinese New Year, we have detailed several tips on how you can navigate the 2021 period on our website. But it is also an opportunity for retailers who have adopted omni-channel business since the outbreak of the pandemic to appeal to international markets. You can also find articles and further information on Lunar New Year, and we will also be providing spending forecasts on our website in the coming days.

All the best for the week ahead.