Statement from Paul Zahra, Australian Retailers Association CEO regarding Victorian State of Disaster / Stage 4 Restrictions

All of the below comments are attributable to Paul Zahra:

“There is no doubt today’s decisions will have a devastating impact on Victorian retailers as our hearts go out to all Victorians at this time.

“As we have maintained throughout the pandemic, it must be a safety-first approach.

“There are a number of impacts which are very concerning for retailers and there will be immediate financial loss from physical store operations for the retailers deemed as being ‘non-essential’ by the Victorian government.

“However the ARA has advocated strongly for online trade and distribution and for those with national distribution centres within the state to be allowed to operate. We are very pleased the provisions announced today will allow for some of this to occur.

“Allowing online deliveries to continue will mean customers can source their important needs from retailers with an online presence. This will help omnichannel retailers cushion the losses from the closure of physical stores and ensure that customers can continue to access their everyday needs.

“In saying this, Victorian small businesses who have not been able to invest in an online operation will be strongly disadvantaged.

“Victoria is the freight and logistics capital of Australia, today’s decisions will also allow the ongoing supply of goods to the rest of Australia and allow for overseas exports.

“We are pleased to see provision for retailers within some essential categories such as trade supplies to continue to offer their products alongside supermarkets, pharmacies, food retailers and other essential services which remain open.

“We are also mindful of the customer demands on these businesses, which will introduce another level of intensity for their teams to manage.

“We welcome the business support provided by the Victorian and Federal governments to-date, including the $5,000 grants for metropolitan and regional businesses. However given the extended nature of the restrictions which could have a crippling effect on those businesses, we welcome deeper consideration of support measures for retailers impacted by the Victorian lockdowns.

“We are keen to see Victoria extend the measures currently supporting business into 2021 due to the profound impact of this ongoing pandemic lockdown period.

“This includes an extension of the leasing code of conduct put in place for small businesses earlier this year, which is due to expire in September. Retailers need certainty to make business decisions around their future.

“Retailers have been incredibly responsive to government requirements – often going above and beyond at significant expense.

“We continue to urge all members of the community to do their part – here and around the country – we can’t afford another false start,” concluded Mr Zahra.

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