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    Latest lockdowns call for greater retail support

    It was announced yesterday that both Victoria and South Australia would spend at least the next seven days in lockdown.

    For Victorian businesses it means an extension of the state’s fifth lockdown, while the South Australian government opted for the measure following further growth in a Covid-19 cluster.

    Australian Retailers Association (ARA) CEO Paul Zahra says with the Delta variant becoming incredibly difficult to contain, it’s clear that lockdowns are going to be an ongoing feature for the rest of this year when it comes to managing new outbreaks in the community.

    “With that being the case, it’s clear we need the return of an effective support scheme like JobKeeper to ensure businesses can stay afloat and connected to their employees,” he says.

    “Whilst the existing federal Covid disaster payments are certainly welcomed, they fall short of a liveable income and the arrangements that were in place under the first phase of JobKeeper. This, along with the Leasing Code of Conduct, were major factors keeping businesses alive through the initial phase of the pandemic.

    “We need to see these valuable measures return urgently with the Delta variant causing so much disruption to people’s lives and businesses.”

    Victoria

    National Retail Association (NRA) CEO Dominique Lamb says that each week Victoria goes into lockdown retailers across the state lose a combined $1 billion in sales.

    “Victorian small businesses have been hit harder than any other following five lockdowns in 16 months,” she says.

    “Retailers across the state who have been forced to close or severely limit their business operations are going to need support or jobs will be lost.

    “Add to the fact that Melbourne is one of Australia’s biggest economic centres and its clear the pain from further lockdowns can easily spread across the broader economy.”

    South Australia

    Ms Lamb says that South Australian retailers are forecasted to lose $250 million.

    “Under the South Australian lockdown, only essential businesses are permitted to remain open,” she says.

    “Even a short, sharp and successful lockdown can have a giant impact on businesses forced to close. Not only do they forgo revenue for the days they’re unable to trade, but reopening is not like flicking on a light switch – rosters need to be organised, stock needs to be ordered, and protocols need to be implemented.

    “We urge South Australian shoppers to be patient and only purchase what they need. Supermarkets and grocery stores remain open under even the tightest level of restrictions.”

    Moving forward

    The ARA is repeating its calls for a nationally consistent approach to Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions.

    “There is still no national definition on what is included in ‘essential’ retail,” says Mr Zahra. “It differs from state to state and is an absolute nightmare for businesses with a national footprint whose stores are affected in different ways depending on what city they’re in.

    “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. Vaccines are the only way we’ll see an end to these sorts of lockdowns and restrictions that are so damaging to businesses and livelihoods.”

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