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Retailers welcome rent relief ruling by ACCC, while the full force of COVID-19 hits April sales

Retail sales plunge in April as full force of COVID-19 hits

The National Retail Association (NRA) has today welcomed a ruling by the ACCC to authorise tenants to collectively bargain with landlords for continued rental relief if they’ve been adversely affected by COVID-19. This follows the application lodged on 17 April 2020, by the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), on behalf of itself and its members enabling them to collectively negotiate with landlords regarding rental support.

On 12 May 2020, the National Retail Association Limited, Australian Hotels Association, Franchise Council of Australia Limited, The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Australian Newsagents’ Federation Limited and Australian Federation of Travel Agents Limited (the Applicants) applied for authorisation on behalf of their current and future members.

The authorisation kicks in immediately and allows tenants impacted by COVID-19 to discuss, share information and collectively negotiate with landlords regarding rental support. Landlords will also be able to discuss and share information to make agreements regarding rental relief offered to SME tenants by landlords.

NRA CEO Dominique Lamb said that the decision recognised the urgent need for retailers and landlords to collectively negotiate mutually beneficial arrangements during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Retail has been hit hard by COVID-19, with NRA members losing $1 billion in the month of March alone. Although restrictions are starting to be eased, the economic carnage wreaked by COVID-19 is far from over,” Lamb said.

“The ability for tenants and landlords to get together and collectively negotiate outcomes that maximise the chances of businesses meeting their rental obligations will be very beneficial. The ACCC decision ruling will improve the quality of information accessible to both tenants and landlords, which will result in better negotiations and more appropriate rent relief measures.”

“We welcome the ruling by the ACCC and will be engaging with NRA members across the country on how this measure can assist them in surviving the COVID-19 crisis.”

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) preliminary figures for the month of April show retail sales plunged by a staggering 17.9%. Lamb said the sobering figures show that April saw the full force of COVID-19 hit the economy.

“April was the first full month to encompass the stringent lockdown restrictions on business and these preliminary figures show the devastating impact dealt to the retail sector,”

“It was feared that the tsunami of panic buying we saw in March would result in shoppers placing a padlock on their wallets and purses in April and this is exactly what has happened. Every single area of retail recorded a giant fall according to these figures, including businesses that weren’t forced to close.”

“We know that governments at all levels have introduced measures to assist business, but these results underline the need for continued support to save hundreds of thousands of jobs.

“Given restrictions are starting to be lifted, we suspect that April will be the worst period but there’s a long way to go before retail starts to see light at the end of the tunnel.”

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