With consumer confidence sinking to its lowest in 30 years this week, most retailers now have a negative outlook of their businesses for the next three months according to the Australian Retailers Association.
The ARA’s research found that 63 per cent of retailers are worried about their business’ performance in the next three months, while 62 per cent have rated current trading conditions as ‘poor’ or ‘terrible’. One in five businesses have closed some locations due to staff shortages and almost 65 per cent of retail businesses report having half of their workforce stuck in isolation.
Retailers are seeking urgent expansion of exemptions to the mandatory isolation of close contacts to Covid-infected people to include all retailers, despite Omicron cases continuing to rise.
Meanwhile, ARA CEO Paul Zahra expressed concerns about seeing low foot traffic in major shopping destinations.
“Retailers would normally be thriving at this time with the post-Christmas sales and people out enjoying their summer holidays, but Omicron has been like a wrecking ball through the retail economy and small businesses, in particular, are suffering as a result.”
“Unlike 2020 and 2021, businesses are navigating these challenges with little to no support from the government. There’s no JobKeeper, no JobSaver and there is little in the way of cash grants to help businesses pay the bills during this unprecedented downturn,” he said.
The ARA has urged federal government action around six priority areas to prevent the collapse of retail businesses. Their demands include access to antigen tests, rent relief, targeted cash grants, reduction in red tape, expanding close-contact isolation exemptions and access to skilled staff.