Retail struggle in January 2020

It would be remiss of me to not begin this week’s column by acknowledging Anzac Day. The most solemn day on the Australia calendar serves as a poignant reminder that as challenging and frustrating as the past year has been, past generations of Australians have faced even more daunting experiences.

Our Western Australian members were delivered some good news at the end of their long weekend, with the decision to not extend the three-day lockdown. Although people across the Perth and Peel regions have returned to work and school, some interim restrictions remain such as mask wearing. As I’ve said in previous columns, state governments are still clearly prepared to impose short, sharp lockdowns to contain COVID outbreaks. Regardless of whether one thinks these hard-nosed restrictions are necessary, the fact they continue to occur means we will continue to operate in uncertain economic conditions.

CBD shopping precincts in particular have been hit hard during COVID, with foot-traffic levels in metropolitan areas still well below pre-pandemic levels. Indeed, research released by Lpc Cresa indicates that pedestrian traffic in the Melbourne CBD has tracked consistently at 40 per cent below pre-pandemic levels and is down by as much as a 70 per cent in Melbourne Central. Similar results have also occurred in Sydney and Brisbane and we know that foot-traffic declines further with each hard-lockdown. The fact is governments at all levels are going to have to seriously consider (if they haven’t already) proactive measures to entice consumers back to CBD precincts to save businesses and jobs.

In more positive news, the ABS preliminary report for March which was released last week showed a growth in nationwide retail sales for the month. Both Victoria and Western Australia led the way, with March turnover increasing by 1.4 per cent across Australia. Despite these results, we are though starting to see the record-high levels of discretionary spending during the latter half of 2020 start to taper off. The final report for March will be delivered on 10 May and we don’t anticipate its findings to deviate too much from the preliminary figures.

Also, last week the ACCC officially gave the green light to extend the Casual Mall Licensing Code of Practice for another 10 years. This is very good news and will mean that companies will continue to be allowed to rent a pop-up space for up to 180 days each year. Businesses who utilise these sorts of stores will have the potential to cash-in on extra sales during busy periods while accessing better rental arrangements. The NRA welcomes the ACCC’s decision and is confident the move will make a positive difference to retailers operating in shopping centres.

All the best for the week ahead.