“We can’t reopen in our car parks”: Clark Rubber boss slams reopening plan

By Sarah Stowe | 21 Oct 2021 View comments

Clark Rubber boss, CEO Anthony Grice, is championing the call for the Victorian government to reconsider retail as part of the plan to open up with the 70 per cent double dose vaccination rate achieved.

While other sectors such as hospitality will open with some restrictions retail has been left to wait until the vaccination rate in over 16s reaches 80 per cent, expected to be early November.

“It’s great to see hospitality open up as of midnight tonight, but I hope the Victorian Government understands the  plight of small business,” Grice told Inside Franchise Business Executive.

Clark Rubber has been active in pushing the ‘reopen retail’ cause, targeting federal and state politicians in government and opposition in support of its New South Wales and Victorian stores.

Grice has leveraged support from the Franchise Council of Australia and worked closely with the Australian Retailers Association to position franchisees as small business owners who are suffering.

There’s been a good response from the 85 letters we’ve sent,” Grice revealed. “This isn’t the first time we’ve undertaken such a task, we did it in 2020. It’s not for us just about getting stores open, it’s also around an important health message.”

The temperature gauge is already hitting the high 20s so now is the time to ensure water in pools and spas is sanitised and treated to prevent bacterial infections, he said.

Grice wants Clark Rubber treated the same as Bunnings, which has been able to trade through course of pandemic.

Clark Rubber boss Anthony Grice | Inside Franchise Business Executive

Clark Rubber boss Anthony Grice | Inside Franchise Business Executive

“We’ve been serving customers through click and collect, and we’ll continue to do that. But our customers need advice, they want a resolution to a problem and it’s not easy to provide this in a digital setting,” he said.

The iconic Aussie retailer has 11 stores across Melbourne’s metro area and while retailers can also trade in an outdoor setting Grice pointed to the impracticalities of this.

“Our franchisees cannot simply shift stock outdoors and set up shop in car parks. We are devastated for our small business franchisees who continue to be penalised by the Melbourne lockdowns and ongoing restrictions.

“The re-opening plan is disjointed and discriminating to say the least. There is no balance. There is no level playing field. The idea that hospitality presents less risk than a retail store does not make sense.”

The retailer, which has been trading for 75 years, is heading into its peak sales period.

“We’re the largest retailer of our kind, and Melbournians and Aussies are not travelling, we’ve been conditioned to be in isolation for two years. A pool will be the biggest Christmas present.”

Despite the lobbying, as yet there’s been no change in policy regarding retail but Grice remains hopeful.

“I hope that sensibility will prevail, and retail will be back open. Let’s swing the doors open to retail.”