The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has welcomed the Victorian Government’s reopening roadmap, but emphasised that the likely seven-week wait until discretionary retail can reopen is disappointing and will deliver at least another $6-billion blow to the state’s retailers.
ARA CEO Paul Zahra said that, whilst it was pleasing that hairdressers and personal care services can reopen at the 70 percent double-dose vaccination milestone, other discretionary retail businesses face a longer wait.
This would limit their ability to trade in the lead-up to the all-important Christmas shopping period.
Discretionary retail faces a longer wait
“Victorian businesses have been desperate for hope and certainty out of the ongoing Delta devastation, and whilst the roadmap details what life will look like after lockdown, it’s disappointing that most of discretionary retail faces a longer wait to reopen,” Zahra lamented.
“Discretionary retail has been the hardest hit throughout the pandemic. Many small retail businesses are on the brink of financial, emotional and mental health collapse. Sadly, they’ll be closed for at least another seven weeks, while other sections of the economy can open and trade at 70 percent double-dose.
“We appreciate the health and safety of the community needs to come first, but we can’t hide our concern for vulnerable retailers who will have been continuously closed for 13 weeks in total – which will sadly be unsustainable for some.
“In NSW, retail businesses, along with hospitality and hair and beauty services, will reopen when 70% of their population is fully vaccinated.
Questions around proof of vaccination
Zahra said there were some important details to be finalised with the Victorian Government around how proof of vaccination will work and will be enforced.
Front-line retail staff had unfortunately been the victims of increased customer aggression as a result of the QR code and mask mandates, and while these instances were in the minority, asking for a customer’s vaccination history would certainly elevate this concern.
“It’s important that retailers have the backing of law enforcement agencies so they can manage the safe reopening of their businesses,” he stated.
“We appreciate this has been an incredibly difficult time for the small business community in particular, but there is hope on the horizon and today’s roadmap is a welcome relief – even if it does mean a longer wait for freedom over others.”