Retail struggle in January 2020

As we enter the final month of winter the situation in Victoria continues to deteriorate. Due to the number of COVID-19 cases mounting, the State Government has been forced to escalate Victoria to Stage 4 lockdowns.

As of Sunday evening, people in Victoria are now only allowed to shop for essential supplies within a 5km distance of their home. Moreover, a curfew has also come into effect, with citizens not allowed to leave their home between 8pm and 5 am unless it is for work, medical care or caregiving.

Following Sunday’s announcement, Premier Daniel Andrews then announced further business restrictions yesterday after another 13 tragic deaths across the state in a 24-hour period. Frontline and essential services located in the Melbourne metropolitan area, including supermarkets, grocery stores, bottle shops, pharmacies, petrol stations, banks, news agencies, and post offices, will be allowed to continue operating under the new restrictions.

However, all other retailers will only be permitted to operate contactless ‘click and collect’ and delivery services, with the exception of hardware stores who will still be permitted to open to tradespeople. These restrictions will come into force from midnight on Wednesday, 5 August 2020 and remain in force for a period of 6 weeks. Further, all businesses that decide to remain open will need to implement a COVIDSafe plan by midnight on Friday, 7 August 2020.

The Government also announced a financial relief package. Retailers in regional Victoria may be eligible for a $5,000 grant while those of you operating in Mitchell Shire and Melbourne could be eligible for a $10,000 grant. The NRA’s legal team will be disseminating guidance and advice relating to the stand-down of staff, but if you have an urgent query please phone 1800 RETAIL (738 245).

The NRA is supportive of the federal governments $1500 pandemic disaster payment as announced today. This coupled with the Victorian payment will go some way to assisting both workers and businesses during this difficult time. However, we are very aware that other states and territories are experiencing the effects of hot spots around the country and we would like to see this payment expanded on a needs basis. The leasing code continues to be a difficult topic for many of our retailers especially with many expiry dates set for September. We are working hard with both state and federal government on this issue as we recognize the complexities facing industry at this time. We will keep you up to date as this issue progresses.

The horrendous situation reinforces the need for the rest of the country to remain vigilant. The retail sector has done an incredible job thus far in complying with restrictions and doing our bit to minimise risk when customers visit the shops. We need to ensure we maintain these high standards to protect both your staff and customers.

On the subject of retail staff, earlier today the NRA released our Health and Wellbeing of Australian Retail Workers report. This paper provides a brief overview of issues impacting retail worker health and wellbeing, as well as potential solutions and strategies which could make a significant difference to the lives of retail workers, and the broader industry and economy as a whole.

Key issues outlined in the report include:

  • Impacts of COVID-19 on retail workers and the need to classify them as frontline essential workers;
  • Increased retail crime and related violence;
  • Increased customer abuse and aggression towards retail workers;
  • Increased exposure to societal risk;
  • High proportion experiencing domestic and family violence;
  • Increased risk of poor lifestyle choices including smoking; and
  • Increased risk of poor lifestyle choices regarding nutrition.

Further information and a full copy of the report can be found at the NRA website.

Meanwhile, the NRA has also launched a strategic partnership with a company called Klarna to provide value and insight for all of you during this challenging period. The aim of the partnership is to provide research, data, strategic insight and enduring value to NRA members to assist you to successfully navigate this period of substantial change.

Klarna is the world’s largest provider of interest-free instalment shopping options, having connected 85 million shoppers to the biggest brands around the globe for over 15 years. In Australia, it has partnered with Commonwealth Bank of Australia to deliver its products and services to retailers. The NRA is pleased to build on its existing relationship with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and form a partnership with Klarna to provide value to all of you.

The first report being made available to members is titled Revive and thrive: How Australian retailers can get ahead now. The white paper features insights out of the recent Retail HackGames to help reset expectations after COVID-19.

All the best for the week and keep well.