Reopening roadmaps welcomed, but concerns remain

The Covid-19 reopening roadmaps announced by the NSW and ACT governments have been welcomed by the retail industry.

“[The] roadmaps provide a light at the end of a very dark tunnel for long-suffering retailers, but many small businesses can’t endure any more delays,” says Australian Retailers Association (ARA) CEO Paul Zahra.

The ARA, however, notes that delays to retail reopening in ACT and Victoria are creating severe pain for retailers.

“We would like to see thresholds for reopening in Victoria and the ACT reconsidered as a matter of urgency, as this Christmas trading period will make or break retailers who depend on these months to stay afloat,” says Mr Zahra.

“Safety is always the priority. However, we are calling for a consistent approach to bring reopening in line with the NSW plan to reopen mid-October when 70% of the population is fully vaccinated. ACT and Victorian retailers – particularly small businesses – are currently disadvantaged by the delayed reopening which jeopardises a significant number of sales.

“We would like the ACT and Victoria to reopen earlier to allow retailers to comfortably stagger demand in the build-up to the intense Christmas shopping period, where many discretionary retailers make up to two-thirds of their profits.”

Mr Zahra says capacity limits imposed on click-and-collect operations for small and large ACT retailers in the build to reopening are also problematic as they are subject to a one size fits all five-person limit, which is impractical for larger retail operations.

Next steps

Mr Zahra says the ARA awaits further details around vaccine certification and looks forward to working with the Victorian and NSW governments on trials to ensure a seamless experience for retailers and shoppers.

“This will be critical to ensure retailers are fully prepared for reopening,” he says.

“As we count down to Christmas, we reiterate the need for state and territory governments to have a consistent, harmonised reopening plan for businesses exiting lockdown. After prolonged shutdowns, this season will be more important than ever before, and retailers can’t afford to wait any longer.”

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