Retailers welcome NSW small business rent relief. Targeted support still needed with unprecedented

Friday 14 January 2022

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has welcomed the extension of rent relief for small businesses in NSW and called for other states and territories to follow suit as retailers enter uncharted territory with the devastating impact of Omicron and the impacts of rising supply chain costs and staff shortages.

Rent negotiation rights have been extended in NSW through to mid-March for businesses with an annual turnover of less than $5 million. In NSW, provisions in the Leasing Code of Conduct will continue with rent relief mandated in proportion to a business’ decline in turnover. Leasing codes of conduct have now expired around the country, with Victoria’s Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme ending on 15 January – leaving small businesses vulnerable to significant cashflow challenges in the first quarter.

ARA CEO Paul Zahra said leasing protections should be re-enacted in other jurisdictions with small businesses struggling to keep their doors open due to staff isolations and increasing supply chain costs.

“We’ve entered uncharted territory with Omicron and small businesses are dealing with a fresh wave of challenges with tens of thousands of people being forced into isolation every day. This is taking an enormous toll on the retail workforce and small businesses who’ve had to limit their trading hours or close altogether,” Mr Zahra said.

“Rent is a significant pain point for small businesses, and we welcome the decision of the NSW Government to extend leasing protections through this difficult period. Given the widescale impacts of Omicron, we would like to see this extended to small businesses with a threshold of up to $50 million as was previously in place. We are also calling on other states and territories to follow suit and enact similar support measures.

“We have not seen the pandemic impact the sector on this scale and for the first time retailers are having to navigate these impacts with almost no support from governments. It’s clear that the impacts of Omicron will be ongoing and that targeted support packages will be needed from governments to support small businesses through this unprecedented challenge.”

The ARA said National Cabinet’s decision to allow foreign students to work extra hours is a positive step along with the extension of close contact isolation exemptions to a wider range of industries.

“Allowing foreign students to work extra hours is a positive step, but we need to get more people back to work sooner where it is safe to do so. We welcome the easing of close contact isolation requirements for essential workers along the food supply chain but we’d like to see these exemptions expanded across the supply chain and the broader retail sector to help reduce stock-outs and staffing shortages,” Mr Zahra said.

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