Retail struggle in January 2020

JobKeeper had barely ended when yesterday Greater Brisbane became the latest area to be plunged into a three-day hard-lockdown. It’s the second time this year residents in Australia’s third largest city have been confined to their homes and comes hot on the heels of similar restrictions imposed on Western Australians and Victorians in February.

With no wage subsidy in place, we certainly hope for the sake of all affected NRA members that this current lockdown does not extend beyond the scheduled deadline of 5pm Thursday. Even a brief and successful lockdown still has real potential to have a detrimental impact on any retail business.

With the record levels of discretionary spending starting to decline, further lockdowns will require further assistance from state and federal governments. Australia has thus far avoided the economic carnage and the death tolls that have occurred in other nations. But the developments of the last few days in Australia’s third largest city demonstrate that this battle is far from over. The NRA will continue to monitor not only the Queensland situation but how the end of JobKeeper affects retailers throughout the country. Where necessary we will continue to advocate to all levels of government to ensure that measures are put in place which see Australia continue on a trajectory for economic recovery.

Meanwhile, e-Bay has released a report entitled ‘Lockdown: One Year on’ which examines what COVID-19 has meant for online retail. As discussed previously, the NRA rejects the premise that physical and online retailers are locked in some binary battle which sees any increased popularity in one occur directly at the expense of the other. Rather, for many businesses, these two different shopping methods complement one another.

Unsurprisingly, the report found that 18-24 year olds are the most tech-savvy, with a majority (57 per cent) doing their shopping online. However, what may surprise some is that the biggest embrace of e-commerce when it came to age demographic occurred with those aged over 60.

The latter point is particularly crucial. People over the age of 60 who are old enough to remember a pre-internet world and who, for the most part, never felt the need to explore online retail have shifted their shopping behaviour. People of all ages are now familiar with digital channels and each of you need to be conscious of this when it comes to devising business strategies moving forward.

Indeed, the report found that 83 per cent of people plan to continue shopping online at the same rate as they have during the pandemic. While this does not for a second mean people will desert brick-and-mortar businesses it does indicate that online retail is no longer a niche market. You can read the full report here which also includes my contribution.

Meanwhile, we have opened submissions for our annual National Retail Awards due to take place on August 27 on the Gold Coast. Make sure you subscribe here and please don’t hesitate to enter one of our 12 award categories. I know it seems like a while off, but we expect this year’s event to attract more interest than ever before and we look forward to honouring those of you who make the Australian retail sector so successful.

All the best for the week ahead.