Australia’s biggest retail body has called Victoria’s latest lockdown “a devastating blow” for the state’s retail sector.
Paul Zahra, CEO of the Australian Retailers Association, said the regulations had ensured there wasn’t much love in the air for Victorian businesses this Valentine’s Day. Last minute shopping had been curtailed and romantic dinner-date plans had been dashed.
“That’s a massive blow for restaurants, [which] would have been fully booked for one of their busiest nights of the year,” he observed.
‘Some of the horrors of 2020 continue,’ says retail boss
“[Retailers have] been through so much in the past year and have done their best to return to an even footing in recent months. Unfortunately, some of the horrors of 2020 continue.”
As had been stated in response to snap lockdowns elsewhere, it is necessary to learn to live with Covid-19 and manage things in a responsible way without devastating businesses and livelihoods, Zahra said.
He believed it was time to have consistency from state and territory governments when it comes to Covid restrictions. At the moment, businesses are at the mercy of the different approaches from the various state Premiers, with very little planning time around what the latest restrictions mean.
Should be a nationally consistent approach to lockdowns
“The uncertainty and confusion around ‘trigger points’ has been a confidence-killer. One of the key lessons out of this pandemic is to have a nationally consistent approach, with clear criteria, so business can at least operate with some sort of certainty,” Zahra stated.
“The vaccines can’t come soon enough; but even when they’re rolled out we’ll still be living with Covid for some time, so the existing challenges will remain for retail.”
According to the Treasury of Western Australia, that state’s recent five-day snap lockdown had an estimated $120-million impact on the WA economy.
WA’s snap lockdown could have cost up to $500-million
That estimate is based on the mining, construction, and other essential services being largely unaffected by the lockdown. But WA Treasurer, Ben Wyatt, did concede that small businesses and other sectors had been hit hard.
Chris Rodwell, the Chief Executive of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA, assessed the figure to be far higher – around $500-million.
“This damage isn’t just healed when the economy reopens. Local businesses, their families and their staff have carried the cost, and they have a painful task ahead,” he said shortly after the WA lockdown ended.