Retail struggle in January 2020

At long last Victorian retailers have been provided with some good news over when they will be able to reopen. After announcing a pause on a lifting of restrictions on Sunday, yesterday Premier Daniel Andrews announced that as of 11:59pm Tuesday night, Melbourne shops will be allowed to recommence trade. Under the two-phase approach, it has been flagged that further restrictions may be announced on November 8.

Retailers across the nation have been impacted by COVID-19, but few have suffered more than those in Melbourne. A lack of certainty was the last thing the city’s business community needed, particularly when we’re about to head into the most important Christmas trading period ever. In 2019, Victorian retail sales for the final six weeks of the year were more than $13 billion, underlining the economic cost that would occur if Stage 4 lockdowns remained in place.

It goes without saying that the health and wellbeing of the public is a priority, but there are also consequences for unnecessary delays to lifting restrictions. On Monday the entire state of Victoria recorded zero new COVID cases, demonstrating that the state has quelled its second-wave. New South Wales has proven that you can effectively contain any infection outbreaks while still keeping the economy relatively open.

ABS data has revealed that the average daily job losses in Victoria throughout August and September was a staggering 1,200, representing more than half of all job losses nationwide since March. As the second-biggest city in Australia, the economic impact of COVID-19 on Melbourne will have a flow-on effect to the rest of the nation. It’s vitally important that the city’s retailers will now be able to trade again (with the necessary safety protocols in place) and we hope that further restrictions are lifted on November 8.

Meanwhile, last week also saw the ABS release its preliminary report for September. It revealed a decline in turnover of 1.5 per cent compared to the previous month, reinforcing the volatile year retail has experienced in 2020. Although it is certainly concerning to see a drop in sales, the preliminary turnover figure is more than 5 per cent higher than at the corresponding time in 2019.

With less than a month until the official start of the Christmas trade period, we hope that discretionary spending remains at a healthy level. Certainty around what business restrictions remain in place will also help ensure strong levels of consumer confidence.

Finally, tickets are still on sale for the invaluable Workplace Investigations Masterclass, which will be held on Wednesday morning. Knowing when (and how) to investigate is an acquired skill. The Masterclass has been developed by our team of in house lawyers and advisors to be a hands-on introduction or refresher on conducting procedurally fair workplace investigations for business owners and HRM staff. Tickets are available here.

All the best for the week ahead.