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AUS Retailers Assn Says Small Businesses Are Struggling

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics reports, retailers are experiencing their lowest trade numbers since lockdown, which has led to industry groups tasking the government to require more public servants to work in office to boost small to medium business revenue.

Consumer spending may be down, but the governmental body represents a huge workforce, and requiring more workers to be in-office is seen as one solution for businesses that have yet to fully recover since the pandemic.

Governments mandating that staff return to the office would be a hugely practical and beneficial move for retail that the government could make, said Australian Retailers Association NSW small business commissioner Chris Lamont.

“If government can do something really constructive for Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, it is to put a mandate on public servants returning to work,” he said.

“I don’t think the government’s the answer to many things, but if you’re going to ask me one thing the government could do, particularly for retail hospitality and CBD, it is getting public service back to the office.”

Recently, the Community and Public Sector Union released news that it had secured the right for 174,000 Australian Public Service employees to have an uncapped amount of work from home.

Data within the Small Retail Index with American Express found that 57% of small and mid-sized companies are finding ways to meet or exceed their financial benchmarks, but as many as 43% are not and are struggling.

In a survey of 468 retailers, 45% felt optimistic regarding the financial year, with 55% somewhat unsure.

“It’s been a perfect storm coming out of Covid – small business owners have struggled through and are very resilient, with most doing OK if they survived,” ARA chief executive Paul Zahra said.

The combination of expensive overheads, the squeeze of interest rates, and consumers spending less has been more than some businesses can handle, with the latest figures from the Australian Securities & Investments Commission saying this is the highest spike of business insolvencies since 2015.

“Most small businesses do not have the strength to carry on. They used home equity to start their business. The younger generation do not have this capacity,” said Lamont.

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