Retail struggle in January 2020

Last Friday saw the ABS release its preliminary report for July 2020, with some surprising news. Turnover rose by a substantial 3.3 per cent on the June figures, with every state and territory except Victoria experiencing increased sales compared to June. While this is probably not that surprising given most states had lifted restrictions between those two months, the July figures were up by 12.2 per cent on July 2019.

But it’s important we put these figures into context. First, as we’ve seen in Victoria, the reality is this virus will continue to pose a health challenge until a vaccine is developed. This means the economy will remain hamstrung to varying extents.

Second, much of the consumer spending is being driven by temporary assistance measures such as JobKeeper and JobSeeker. While these schemes will remain in place until at least early next year, they will come to an end eventually.

Added to all this, we still have only around 80 per cent of shopping centre stores trading and the drop in tourism dollars from international and domestic border closures will also have an impact during holiday seasons.

This isn’t to suggest that the July figures are not good, but we need to be conscious that we’re operating in a highly volatile time and the road to recovery will be a long and arduous one. Retail will continue to need assistance from government to navigate these uncertain times and keep as many Australians in jobs as possible.

The concern over a second-wave has also seen the Queensland Government reintroduce social restrictions. On Saturday the Premier announced, effective immediately, that only 10 people could attend another person’s house at one time. At the time of writing no commercial restrictions have been implemented, but if there continues to be a rise in infections across the state then this could be a possibility.

Meanwhile, the Victorian Government also made an announcement last week to extend the ban on evictions and rental increases until the end of the year. It will apply to both residential and commercial tenants, with landlords also required to provide rent relief in proportion with the fall in turnover being experienced by eligible tenants going forward. The Government also unveiled further reductions in land tax and more grant funding to help eligible businesses survive the current lockdown.

As has been the case throughout the pandemic, we’re operating in a fast-moving environment with respective governments constantly responding to the health and economic challenges posed by COVID-19. As your association, we will continue to keep you fully abreast of each relevant announcement in a timely manner.

All the best for the week and keep well.