Retail groups collaborate to get stores open

Key industry groups including the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), the National Retail Association (NRA) and the Shopping Centre Council of Australia (SCCA) have set aside their differences to work towards the mutually beneficial goal of reopening stores.

On Friday, the groups released the COVID-19 Retail Recovery Protocol, which includes 10 key actions retailers and shopping centres can take to trade in accordance with the Federal Governments’ social distancing requirements.

Actions include making alcohol-based hand sanitiser available at key locations, frequent cleaning and disinfecting of regularly used objects and hard surfaces, encouraging 1.5 metre social distancing, enforcing the new one person per 4sqm capacity limit and daily check-ins with staff to ensure they are properly trained and have access to PPE.

The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) and Pharmacy Guild of Australia (PGA), were also behind the release of the protocol.

The protocol comes as some State Governments have started to ease current restrictions – the Federal Government has said it will reassess current restrictions on May 11 – and some retailers have started to reopen stores.

“As more people return to shopping centres, we want to assure the community our industry is working hand-in-hand to ensure that strict public health guidelines are followed and that we provide a safe, healthy and secure environment,” Angus Nardi, chief executive of the SCCA, said in a statement.

But the various parties within the industry haven’t always been on the same page. Shopping centres have clashed with their retail tenants in recent weeks over the issue of rental payments, and the degree to which they should be reduced or deferred given the impact of the coronavirus and resulting shutdown on consumer spending.

Premier Investments, the owner of Smiggle, Peter Alexander, Just Jeans and other fashion brands, has refused to pay rent on hundreds of bricks-and-mortar stores, which it closed amid dwindling foot traffic and strict social distancing requirements.

There is a now a national tenancy code of conduct in place across the country that requires landlords to amend rental agreements with small business tenants that have seen revenue decline due to COVID-19.

But while some major retailers, such as Accent Group and Lovisa, have started reopening stores in shopping centres, many major businesses, including Myer, remain closed.

And until a critical mass of stores reopen, it may not make sense for shopping centres to do so.

Inside Retail understands that shopping centres and retailers were urged to work together on the reopening of retail stores by the Prime Minister’s office.

This article first appeared on Inside Retail, a sibling website to Inside Franchise Business Executive.