The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has applauded the Victorian Government’s decision to extend the state’s Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme until December 2020, providing a critical lifeline for Victoria’s hard-hit retail sector.
Paul Zahra, CEO of the ARA said the Code provides significant relief to small and medium-sized retailers suffering due to the impact of government lockdowns.
“The two greatest pain points for retailers are rent and payroll costs – which is why we have been calling for an extension to the Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme in line with the introduction of Jobkeeper 2.0,” said Mr Zahra.
“Certainty is critical right now, with many retailers considering their options as we head into the all important final quarter of trading for 2020 – traditionally at a time when stores make their greatest financial gains and replenish their cash reserves,” he said.
“It goes without saying that the effect of physical store closures within Melbourne and broader Victoria is crippling. And whilst the concession of online trading during this time is a significant plus, the majority of revenues for all retailers are still within physical store operations.
“We thank the Premier and the Treasurer for their continued engagement on this Code and for offering this certainty to local businesses. This will ensure the pain of lockdowns is shared between tenants and landlords and help reestablish a sustainable retail sector and a return to vibrant shopping centres and precincts,” said Mr Zahra.
In a recent survey of ARA members, an overwhelming proportion of ARA members have signalled their desire for the code to be extended, with close to 60% of retailers still engaged in negotiations with Landlords for rental relief. 90% of ARA survey respondents this week said it was important for the scheme to be extended beyond September.
Retailers with a turnover below $50 million and which are eligible for the JobKeeper program are covered by the code, which provides tenants with rent reduction proportionate to decreases in turnover.
“The impact of VIctoria’s restrictions will be felt across state boundaries. We urge the other states to follow suit and extend the operation of their Code to for hard-hit retailers. Businesses which continue to access JobKeeper need continued support to remain viable in the long run,” Mr Zahra said.
“We appreciate the impact of rent relief on landlords and the parallel financial support offered to Landlords via today’s announcement is a sensible move which will ensure greater viability for all parties.
“While some landlords have been extremely supportive and should be commended for their support, we continue to hear some disappointing reports of obstructive landlords or those who treat the minimum provisions of the code as their maximum offer support. We urge all landlords to act in good faith and apply the principles of this code to all affected retailers, including those with a turnover above $50 million, who provide jobs for thousands of Australians.”
“We can’t underestimate the hit that this second lockdown will cause. We hope that this extension will help retailers fulfil rental obligations and come to a fair agreement with their landlords, ensuring the sustainable recovery of retail and the ongoing health of commercial tenants,” Mr Zahra concluded.