Small retailers suffering at the hands of landlords

The Australian Lottery and Newsagents Association (ALNA) has urged landlords to set up favourable rent arrangements with their tenant retailers in the midst of the current crisis and the Government’s calls to help affected businesses.

The pleas come amid reports of landowners still refusing to give due consideration to their lottery and newsagent tenants who are at risk of not being able to pay rent in the long-term.

According to these reports some landlords are asking tenants to sign a confidentiality agreement before any discussions can occur, while others resorted to practices such as delaying tactics, opportunistic cashing in of bank guarantees, and going after the tenants’ April invoices.

“We are imploring landlords to work with us on this to find a sensible solution now,” Ben Kearney, CEO of ALNA, said. “This remains the big piece of the puzzle that is still unresolved and urgently required to make it possible for small businesses to go into a semi-hibernation state while very prudently maintaining essential services during the crisis and to not lose the capacity to come out the other side.”

There are over 4000 lottery retailers and newsagents’ in Australia, and they are patronised by approximately 35 per cent of the population at least once a week, according to a Retail Doctor Group Insights study.

“Their biggest immediate concern now to surviving this crisis, is their financial capacity to continue to pay rent to their landlords during the crisis,” Kearney said. “Many are reporting that they will have limited capacity to continue to pay rent over the several months it may now take before any recovery in customer visitation occurs after social restrictions are lifted.”

He added, “When they have reached out to landlords and their representatives as almost all have, and as the Prime Minister has suggested they do, to have a conversation about sensible rent relief and abatement to meet the requirements of their business in surviving this crisis and that is no fault of their own, they are consistently and overwhelmingly met with delay and obfuscation.

“The current COVID-19 pandemic is impacting our small retailers’ businesses in a significant way. Newsagents and lottery agents are not businesses with huge financial capacity or large margins. They are generally mums and dads, family enterprises, and first-generation Australians, who are having a go and working hard to make a success of their business,” Kearney said.

ALNA has also written to the Shopping Centre Council of Australia to ask its industry to step up to support its tenants who can with immediate short-term assistance continue to provide good long-term income.

“We are asking for landlords to show some leadership and to genuinely partner with their commercial tenants, to help see them through this crisis by entering immediate dialogue and delivering rapid outcomes. We are not asking them to go out of business, but to work on a common sense solution and the only reasonable option for both their businesses and their tenants,” Kearney said.

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