Retail struggle in January 2020

There’s an old saying that a week is a long time in politics and our members in South Australia know that only too well given what has transpired in the last seven days.

Following a rise in COVID-19 cases, last Wednesday the Premier announced a six day ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown. Then, just 48 hours later, it was announced that the new restrictions would be lifted at 11:59pm Saturday after it was revealed that an individual had deliberately misled the contact tracing team.

Needless to say, this is highly frustrating for all South Australian retailers. Not only were businesses forced to unnecessarily close, but as you all know, many retailers can’t just close or open their business like turning on or off a tap. Staff rosters need to be prepared, stock needs to be ordered and on hand (particularly in the case of food and drink), and owners need to be up to speed with updated COVID protocols.

We understand that politicians will err on the side of caution when it comes to public safety and no one wants to see what occurred in Melbourne emulated in other parts of the country. But by the same token, many businesses have suffered enough during this pandemic without being unnecessarily plunged into additional lockdowns.

The NRA urges all state governments to engage with industries such as retail to prevent what occurred in South Australia last week from happening again. There are positive signs that a vaccine is just around the corner and if we can avoid further lockdowns it will mitigate the negative economic impact of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, we’re just a few days away from the first major event of the Christmas period – the Black Friday sales event. A trend that has emerged in recent years is consumers doing Christmas shopping earlier than usual, especially in late November.

Hopefully those of you offering bargain prices over the Black Friday weekend will record strong turnover that provides great momentum as we head into December. The NRA is currently finalising our forecasts for the four days stretching from Black Friday to Cyber Monday and we’re optimistic about a busy few days for retail.

On the broader economic picture, the ABS preliminary report for October was released last Friday and contained mostly good news. There was a 1.6 per cent rise in monthly turnover from September, while sales for October 2020 are 7.3 per cent above the same period in 2019.

The continuation of government assistance measures and Australians being unable to travel overseas does mean that consumers currently have a healthy level of discretionary spending power. It’s important that this continues throughout the Christmas period to ensure that the festive period does represent a turning point towards a retail recovery.

Finally, I encourage all of you to register for our ‘Rostering for Compliance Masterclass’ being conducted by our NRA Legal team on 2 December. Various changes have been made to the General Retail Industry Award during 2020 and all retailers need to be fully up to speed for Christmas. Our sector is under intense scrutiny from regulators and I’m sure none of you want to become the latest non-compliant wage case. This live and interactive workshop will deliver an overview of compliant rostering practices that will minimise your exposure to overtime penalties and underpayment claims. You can register here.

All the best for the week ahead.