SME retailers on the road to recovery

New data from the Shopping Centre Council of Australia (SCCA) has revealed that requests for rental assistance from SME retailers have fallen due to improving retail conditions.

The SCCA noted that foot traffic and store openings are now at 95 per cent of pre-COVID levels and are still rising, with the average retail spend per visit also on the way up as the Christmas trading peak approaches.

“The need for retail rental assistance has passed a critical turning point as retail trading conditions pickup and consumers return to stores,” SCCA Executive Director Angus Nardi said. “Every step towards normalised COVID-safe trading gives a boost to retail, whether it’s lifting patron limits or reducing the one person per four square metre density rule as we’ve seen in some jurisdictions.”

Nardi also highlighted the contribution of SCCA members in helping small tenant retailers during the lockdown.

“Throughout the pandemic, our members have continued to provide valuable rental assistance to retailers, with nearly $2 billion of rental assistance provided to approximately 12,000 SME retailers,” Nardi said. “While some closures and restrictions such as maximum patron capacity remain in place, restrictions for retail, hospitality and other categories have largely eased across the country.”

Nardi added that the majority of retailers were now opting out of rental assistance, but that some opportunistic retailers were taking advantage of it.

“Continuing the code in the current favourable trading conditions has allowed some retailers to game the system and draw landlords into unnecessary stalemates,” Nardi said. “Our focus should be on getting everyone open and continuing to provide a COVID Safe and secure environment guided by public health principles, not bartering on rental agreements.”.

Nardi also expressed the belief that the Code of Conduct should not be extended beyond the original December deadline.

“We strongly believe there is no evidence to justify any further extension of the Code of Conduct beyond December in jurisdictions such as Victoria, NSW and Queensland. It has served the purpose it was conceived for when we developed it with retailer groups in March.”

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