Business groups have ridden a “roller coaster of emotion”, after initially expressing frustration that retail’s grand reopening may be pushed back, only to find they will be able to start opening days earlier than initially expected.
On Monday, Premier Dan Andrews said retailers will be able to reopen starting 11:59pm on Tuesday, 27 October, rather than next Monday, as was the initial plan.
Australian Retailers’ Association chief Paul Zahra noted the lockdown had been particularly hard on small businesses, and that the delays and setbacks had taken a toll on the mental health and wellbeing of the community.
“We are pleased at this stage that there are no further retail restrictions than those which have already been communicated, most which have proven to keep shopping a safe experience. This is a point we advocated strongly for, given the exemplary safety performance of retailers throughout the pandemic,” Zahra said.
“Victoria plays such a vital role in the national retail industry. It is the heart of the distribution and warehousing and it makes up a quarter of national retail sales. It’s not Christmas without Victoria – we are elated that Christmas is finally on – in every state and territory, now that Victoria will finally be open for the holiday shopping season.”
Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Guerra said he believed the Government had clearly been listening to the pleas from business leaders.
“There is a sense of optimism this afternoon as the whole of Victoria can get back to work,” Guerra said.
“As we take this next step, the State Government must trust business to operate in a COVID safe way just as Victorians need to have faith in the Government’s contact tracing system and the ability of our health officials to respond to isolated outbreaks.”
The announcement came after the BCA launched a scathing attack on the state government’s inability to put measures in place similar to other states.
Business Council of Australia head Jennifer Westacott said Victorian consumers and business owners alike are at a financial and mental breaking point.
“It’s just inexplicable that a state with comparable or lower case numbers than NSW cannot adopt the same best-practice system used in NSW and implement that state’s tools and technologies to contain local outbreaks and effectively manage contact tracing and tracking,” said Westacott.
Westacott said that while lockdown was essential at the beginning of the virus, Victoria now needs to learn how to live with the virus.
Chemist Warehouse director Mario Tascone told Inside Retail it is now everyone’s duty yo make sure Victorian businesses get back up and running.
“Tomorrow hundreds of thousands of people get to go back to work. They’ve done it so tough in Melbourne, they’ve done it tougher than anyone in Australia, so we’re wrapped to see business back online,” Tascone said.
“Hopefully everyone can patronize these business full on from tomorrow, get them back and roaring again, and bring this town… back to business.”