Nationwide rental assistance to retailers has eclipsed $1.6 billion, according to the Shopping Centre Council of Australia, with the largest level of support given to cafes and restaurants, followed by retailers such as hairdressers, beauty salons and nail bars.
The relief data was released by the Council to give a “real dollar value” to the support it has extended to the retail industry – and to say that it’s unlikely shopping centre owners can continue to do so.
“Our industry has provided substantial rental assistance to both SME and non-SME retailers, however we are unable to continue to shoulder that assistance, and for that reason, are not in a position to support the Code of Conduct’s extension where the cost of doing so falls exclusively on shopping centre owners,” SCCA executive director Angus Nardi said.
“Unlike others our sector stands alone in having regulation require us to provide direct financial assistance to third parties, which must be financed from our own resources, which are now exhausted.”
SCCA data shows that 84 per cent of all SMEs have requested rental assistance, with New South Wales and Victoria accounting for 64 per cent of all rental assistance agreements.
New South Wales has seen $581 million in assistance, while Victoria has seen $412 million, Queensland $366 million, WA $100 million, SA $75 million and the ACT $27 million. Tasmania and the Northern Territory are included in the headline figure, but were not disclosed separately.
Nardi concedes that it is in the best interest of shopping centre owners that retailers stay open and operating, as do their centres, but that putting the onus purely on its members for support could have disastrous consequences.
However, the SCCA remains committed to continuing to work with SME retailers in the spirit of the Code and ahed of government intervention.
“The SCCA conceived the Code of Conduct with key retailer groups, and the government should take confidence that the industry can and will continue to work together,” Nardi said.
“We have proven our ability to manage a very complex range of negotiations on a case-by-case basis and our data demonstrates where the greatest needs is for future government support for SMEs in the retail sector.”