Retail struggle in January 2020

The National Retail Association (NRA) has welcomed the today’s announcement by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, extending the JobKeeper subsidy from September 2020 to March 2021. By our calculations, $3.4 billion in retail sales were lost in the month of April during the height of the lockdown restrictions. If we see the same spike we’ve seen in Melbourne occur in other parts of the country, the economics ramifications would be dire.

The JobKeeper scheme has undoubtedly saved many jobs, the challenge was always going to be how it would be scaled back. We’d have preferred an approach that extended it by industry. Sectors such as retail and tourism were always going to require additional assistance compared to other parts of the economy. For more information on the changes to the amounts of JobKeeper and the businesses that can claim them, see this weeks NRA Legal article.

In other news, the Victorian Government has introduced the mandatory wearing of face masks for anyone who ventures beyond their house in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire. The measure will take effect from this Thursday, 23 July and failure to comply will come with a $200 fine. If successful, it could mean that Victoria avoids going into level 4 lockdown restrictions which would see all businesses other than supermarkets and convenience stores close. We would like to remind all members that while you can advise your customers to wear masks and you have the right to deny non-compliant customers entry to your premises, enforcement of the rule is the responsibility of the local police. Your staff do not need to bear the brunt of any additional customer abuse further to what we have seen throughout the pandemic. If an altercation arises, police should be involved.

Meanwhile, the New South Wales Government has announced new restrictions that will kick into effect at midnight this Friday, 24 July. This includes extending the 10-person booking limit already in place for pubs to restaurants, bars, cafes and clubs. It will also be mandatory for all these businesses to implement a COVIDSafe plan, register as a COVIDSafe business and create a digital record of guests’ information within 24 hours of the new restrictions. Today Premier Berejiklian also encouraged NSW residents to maintain social distancing and wear a face mask or covering if they are unable to do so.

These measures come following a few outbreaks across the state last week. If New South Wales is forced to re-impose restrictions like Victoria, that would see two of the biggest Australian retail economies in lockdown. This would certainly have a significant flow-on effect across the rest of the country and would only serve to exacerbate the current economic challenge.

At the Federal level, the Commonwealth Government announced a $2 billion skills package known as JobTrainer. It includes a $1 billion JobTrainer fund to provide up to an additional 340,700 training places to assist school leavers and job seekers access short courses to develop new skills in growth sectors and create pathways to more qualifications.

The scheme will require the National Skills Commission to work cooperatively with the states and territories to develop a list of qualifications along with the relevant skill sets that will assist job seekers during the economic recovery. As an RTO and the peak industry body for retailers, the NRA has been providing training to assist young Australians in entering the workforce, oftentimes in their first role. The NRA will be working with Government to advocate for skills training that will boost the retail industry and provide the support needed at this crucial time.

All the best for the week and keep well.