Thursday, May 19, 2022

Dismal trading conditions impact retail performance

New research shows most retailers have a negative business outlook over the next three months as January consumer confidence reaches its lowest point in 30 years.

An online poll conducted this week of Australian Retailers Association (ARA) members shows staff isolations are continuing to bite, with businesses limiting trading hours and temporarily closing locations.

“Retailers are calling for urgent expansion of close contact isolation exemptions as Omicron staff isolations decimate small business,” says the ARA.

The survey findings representing thousands of businesses nationally, both large and small, include:

  • 65% of businesses have up to half of their workforce in isolation
  • 62% of businesses have rated current trading conditions as ‘poor’ or ‘terrible’
  • 63% are concerned about the performance of their business in the next three months
  • Around a third of businesses (34%) say they have limited trading hours at some locations
  • Around one in five businesses (22%) say they have closed some locations due to staff shortages
  • 66% of businesses support an expansion of the close contact isolation exemptions to include all retail, hospitality and hair and beauty workers.

“Retailers would normally be thriving at this time of year with the post-Christmas sales and people out enjoying their summer holidays, but Omicron has been like a wrecking ball through the retail economy and small businesses in particular are suffering as a result,” says ARA CEO Paul Zahra.

“Consumer confidence is at an all-time-low, we’re seeing equally low levels of foot traffic through our major shopping destinations. The hopes of struggling businesses who were banking on a prosperous holiday sales period have been dashed.

“Unlike in 2020 and 2021, businesses are navigating these challenges with little to no support from Government. There’s no JobKeeper, no JobSaver and there is little in the way of cash grants to help businesses pay the bills during this unprecedented downturn.

“The Omicron impacts will be ongoing and targeted support is desperately needed from governments.”

The ARA repeats its calls for urgent government action around six priority areas to prevent business collapse.

“This year has seen business enter unchartered waters, with Omicron impacting business more than any other time in the pandemic,” says Mr Zahra.

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