ACT lockdown: Retailers left in the dark over what is ‘essential’

Canberra

As the Australian Capital Territory enters lockdown following the spread of the Delta virus to the state, retailers are once again trying to understand if they are ‘essential’ or not, according to the National Retail Association.

According to the ACT Government website, only businesses deemed essential are able to operate via click-and-collect, while the remainder are required to close up for the duration of the lockdown.

“If the implication of this ruling is unintentional it needs to be clarified,” said NRA boss Dominique Lamb, “[and] if it is the intent then the ACT Government needs to rethink its decision.”

“The ability to trade in a non-contact environment, such as a click and collect arrangement, is essential for the ongoing viability of the retail industry. A direction for general retail to not offer click and collect and for consumers to not shop online would also force impacted distribution centres to close.”

Many retailers have proven their ability to operate safely solely via click-and-collect as the industry continues to grapple with constant lockdowns, and being able to do so in the ACT will enable many retailers to keep serving the public.

Paul Zahra, chief executive of the Australian Retailers Association, was also left frustrated by the ambiguity.

“This is the first time the ACT has gone into lockdown since the early days of the pandemic, but that’s no excuse,” Zahra said.

“Once again, businesses are left scrambling to work out how they’re impacted by the health orders which are too vague and confusing.”

Call for urgent rent relief in NSW

As the situation continues to worsen in NSW, Lamb partnered with Franchise Council of Australia chief executive Mary Aldred to call on the NSW Government for urgent tenancy relief for businesses struggling through the elongated lockdown.

“Many retail businesses in NSW are at a breaking point [and] without significant support over the coming six months many simply will not survive,” Lamb said.

“The property industry is one of the few not to have received extensive government support, which is why a comprehensive solution is required that assists both tenants and landlords.”

Aldred noted that, with the NSW lockdown in its seventh week, and the contagion spreading, rent deferrals are no longer a solution.

“Deferring rent during a short lockdown is one thing, but during prolonged restrictions that provides little assistance,” Aldred said.

“Eventually the debts mount up and must be paid at some point, with many businesses simply unable to continue. The situation in NSW presents a dire situation for many in the franchising industry, which is why the FCA supports the immediate reinstatement of the NSW leasing code.”

This article was first published by Inside Retail

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