Emporium Melbourne closes doors, ceases non-essential trade

In one of the first cases of a major shopping centre closing its doors in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, Vicinity Centres have shut down Emporium Melbourne until “later” in April. 

Certain retailers will be able to continue trading – Emporium Pharmacy and Emporium Medical Centre, as well as selected take-away food retailers – and security and cleaners will be on-site to ensure the safety of workers and customers alike. 

General trade at the centre, however, has ceased. 

Foot traffic has fallen significantly in the CBD and more than 90 per cent of retailers at Emporium had closed prior to the announcement, Vicinity CEO Grant Kelley said.

“As a result, we have made the decision to close Emporium Melbourne temporarily until the COVID-19 situation eases in our community,” Kelley said.

“Our first priority is the health, safety and wellbeing of our customers, retailers, teams and the broader community, and these are unprecedented circumstances that require decisive measures to support our retailers and our centre.”

The decision comes a week after Vicinity Centres said it was reducing operating hours across 63 of its centres.

Customers reacted positively to the announcement, with many understanding that the decision was difficult to make but ultimately the right one. 

Additionally, some took the opportunity to ask what the landlord is doing to assist its retailers in terms of rental agreements – an issue that pervades the conversation about shopping centres and tenants in the current landscape. 

On Monday, the ACCC granted shopping centres interim authorisation to discuss and implement rent relief measures for small to medium-sized tenants, which would allow landlords to offer tailored relief for tenants in trouble. 

And while the ACCC reserves the right to revoke these powers immediately at its discretion, questions have been raised over shopping centre owners’ ability to cross reference one another’s information to gain additional leverage in negotiations.

Shopping Centre Council of Australia chairman Peter Allen said the goal of the authorisation was to provide proportionate and measured support to tenants, and share the financial risk and cash flow impact. 

“There is no one-size fits all approach to this situation. It’s going to take a lot of time to work through arrangements with our 2,600 SME retailers and their banks,” Allen said.


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