Retail struggle in January 2020

It’s a somber start to the week, as the rapid escalation of COVID-19 cases in Victoria has caused Queensland, New South Wales and the ACT to close their borders to travellers from this state. We have seen the public housing estates go into complete lockdown, and the Premier of Victoria has just made the announcement that Metropolitan Melbourne and the Shire of Mitchell will return to Stage 3 measures from 11:59pm on 8 July 2020. This jump in cases is clear evidence this pandemic is far from over, and we need to exercise caution while out and about. Wash and sanitise your hands, maintain 1.5m distance between others, and cover your coughs and sneezes. The impact of a second lockdown would be devastating, and with retailers already struggling we must do everything we can to stop the spread.  If you are a retailer affected by this latest wave in Victoria, please reach out to us at 1800 RETAIL if you require any assistance in terms of financial support, leasing and tenancy queries, or more.

The Morrison Government is now considering whether to ask states and territories to extend commercial rent relief measures past September, amid fears of a spate of defaults heading into the crucial Christmas period. This extension would provide vital support to the industry and the NRA is very much in support of this move. We know that there is a significant amount of concern around the end of JobKeeper in September, and speculation that the economy is headed towards a cliff. As such, we are pleased to see last week the ACCC announcement proposing to grant authorisation for NRA members to engage in information sharing and, in the case of tenants, collective bargaining with respect to their leases.

This announcement means NRA members nationwide are one step closer to being able to negotiate outcomes that maximise the chances of meeting their rental obligations. Improving the quality of information accessible to both landlords and tenants will result in more productive negotiations and ultimately, more effective outcomes for the respective parties. Retailers will continue to need all the support they can get to ease the cost of doing business. The NRA welcomes this decision and is very optimistic that the ACCC will grant a 12-month authorisation.

Meanwhile, last Friday the ABS released its May Retail Trade report that showed a sizeable 16.9 per cent increase in turnover. Although this was a significant increase it doesn’t reflect an accurate picture of how retail, or the economy more broadly, is travelling.

April saw the full might of lockdown restrictions hit the retail sector, with an unprecedented drop in turnover. The easing of restrictions in May was always going to see sales rebound, but it is still pleasing to see a sizeable increase.

In this volatile environment, we can’t simply look at one month and take that as a barometer as to how retail is travelling. The past three months have seen retail trade go up and down like a yo-yo, so we need to be careful about thinking we’ve almost reached a recovery.

Finally, the NRA is proud to announce the relaunch of the 2020 National Retail Awards season. Earlier this year, we had announced that the Gala would take place on the Gold Coast on Friday, 28 August 2020. With this no longer possible, we have made the decision to host a free, virtual format event with keynote speakers and live presentations. We have extended our entry period to Friday, 14 August 2020, and created an additional four categories including the inaugural “People’s Choice” Award. We encourage you to spread the word to your network and submit your entry at Now, more than ever, we should be celebrating retail.

All the best for the week and keep well.