Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Extended NSW lockdown to cost retail $3 billion

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is calling for an expansion of business support measures with lost retail trade set to mount to around $3 billion as the Greater Sydney lockdown is extended for another week until 11.59pm Friday, July 16.

ARA CEO Paul Zahra says today’s announcement is a bitter blow for small businesses in particular, who are hanging on for survival without a JobKeeper safety net.

“Whilst we are supportive of the NSW Government’s efforts to keep the community safe, we can’t ignore the devastating impacts this lockdown is having on retailers, and small businesses in particular,” he says.

“This lockdown is now set to cost around $3 billion in lost retail trade, which is just not sustainable without adequate support measures in place for businesses and their staff.

“We have grave concerns for smaller retailers in the CBD, who were already crippled by the ongoing Covid impacts before this latest outbreak, with low office populations and a lack of tourists contributing to sluggish trade throughout the pandemic.

“While some businesses can stay open through the current restrictions, the reality is people are not going to the shops in their usual numbers and many businesses have decided it’s not worth the trouble of opening their doors at all.”

Mr Zahra says there needs to be an expansion of existing support measures from the Federal and State Governments to help impacted businesses and staff.

“The Federal Government has activated Covid disaster payments, but this is only available for people who live and work in hotspot areas and there are many more in regional areas of NSW that are missing out,” he says.

“Whilst we are grateful for the business support grants and payroll tax deferrals from the NSW Government, this doesn’t go far enough to compensate the downturn businesses will suffer during a three-week lockdown.

“We certainly hope this lockdown doesn’t go on for longer than is absolutely necessary. This once again highlights how important it is to expediate Australia’s Covid vaccination program and the retail community stands ready to support this effort in any way it can.”

National Retail Association CEO Dominique Lamb says that while the NSW Government is right to prioritise the safety of the public, the immense costs of lockdowns cannot be ignored.

“Although the extension of the lockdown across much of NSW is a hammer blow to retailers, we are heartened to hear the Premier announce that she expects this to be the final lockdown for the state,” she says.

“Prioritising the health and wellbeing of the public is rightly a priority, but make no mistake this lockdown extension will hurt. The NRA forecasts a further one billion dollars in lost sales for retailers in impacted areas.

“Greater Sydney is also the biggest economic region in the country, so there will be a ripple effect across the broader economy.”

Ms Lamb says that retailers were glad to see National Cabinet announce last Friday a four-phase plan out of the pandemic, but called on state and federal leaders to formulate details on ending lockdowns altogether.

“Retailers welcomed the four-phase plan announced by National Cabinet last week, but now we ask state and federal governments to finalise the necessary details to provide business confidence,” she says.

“Business support packages are great, but they’re not a solution to ongoing lockdowns. What we need is National Cabinet to make a firm commitment on a vaccination threshold that eliminates the need for lockdowns once and for all.

“ABS figures released just this week for May showed solid growth for retail. But if we can permanently end lockdowns it would provide a giant boost in business and consumer confidence that safeguard jobs.”

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