The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) welcomes key business measures delivered by the Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas in today’s 2020-21 Victorian State Budget, but said the Budget does not go far enough to rebuild the state’s most broken business sectors like retail.
ARA CEO Paul Zahra applauded initiatives to preserve and create jobs, particularly for women, along with payroll tax concessions and a digital adaption fund for SMBs, but said the measures would be insufficient to repair the lockdown damage for many SMB retailers.
“It’s a big positive to see jobs support including a New Jobs Tax Credit and a wage subsidy should provide the sector with a substantial incentive to hire new staff. Women represent more than half of the retail workforce at 54.5 per cent, and younger employees aged 15 to 24 years old represent 30.8 percent of our sector, meaning this can provide a significant boost to retailers,” he said.
“Many retail employees, who are young women, are set to benefit from additional funding for child care, which will assist their return to the workforce,” he said.
“However, Victoria’s lockdowns have left local retailers saddled with extraordinary debt levels and trading deficits – sales are down 4 per cent since March, compared to 5 per cent growth nationally. Unfortunately, pre-Christmas sales are also predicted to fall by 3.3 per cent in the state, likely leaving many without the sales boost they need to survive and thrive into next year,” said Mr Zahra.
“As JobKeeper and JobSeeker wind back, retailers need cash and financial support to repair and rebuild, rather than debt and loan schemes. While permanent changes to payroll tax are welcome, deferrals may create a debt overhang in future, compromising future prospects for growth.
The ARA is disappointed in the announcement for the Secure Work Pilot Scheme which, in its final form, will introduce an additional cost to business at a time they can least afford it.
“Unfortunately, the effect of some job creation initiatives will be nullified by what is effectively a new tax on employment, imposing an additional 25 per cent loading on wages to fund sick leave for casuals. This measure is an impediment for retailers which are facing the toughest economic climate in a century,” Mr Zahra continued.
Mr Zahra commended the Victorian government on the Wellbeing and Mental Health support programs and the $20 million Small Business Digital Adaptation Fund to help sole traders and micro and small businesses to build digital capability in their day-to-day operations, two key areas of ARA advocacy in recent months.
“Retail is Australia’s largest private sector employer – employing one in ten Australians. It’s important to see investment in rebuilding this important part of our economy. The recent lockdown period has shown us that, as the freight and distribution capital of Australia, we need the Victorian economy to fire in order to stimulate national economic outcomes,” said Mr Zahra.
“The ARA stands ready to support the retail recovery that is crucial for the economic health of Victoria, and look forward to working with the government to support the skills development that will be crucial to the long-term growth of the retail industry,” Mr Zahra concluded.