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Lockdown Bill Keeps Rising As Shopping Centres Squeezed

Pandemic lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne are hammering shopping centres and discretionary retail as the Australian Retailers Association warns of a $7 billion blow to the industry.

Shopping centre landlords have taken big hits to their share prices, as reported in The Australian, with Vicinity Centres down 9.6 per cent over the last month, Stockland down 9.1 per cent, and Westfield owner Scentre down 8.8 per cent.

The NSW Government’s $5.1 billion COVID relief package includes support for both retail tenants and landlords, though Minister for Finance and Small Business Damien Tudehope warns that under the plan, commercial and retail landlords must attempt mediation before evicting tenants, locking them out, or recovering security bonds.

Damien Tudehope.

“This package says to landlords and tenants before you take any action, sit down, talk to each other and come to an agreement on what the next few weeks looks like.

“It could be a payment plan, a reduction in rent, or an agreement not to take any action until restrictions end, but we all need to work together to ensure small businesses get through this lockdown and continue to create jobs, deliver vital services for local communities and power our economy forward,” he said.

Industry body the Australian Retailers Association says that Victoria’s snap five-day lockdown announced yesterday, as well as the extension of NSW lockdowns until July 30, bring the total days of state lockdowns this year to 68.

Paul Zahra, CEO of the ARA, warns that the impact of NSW and Victoria’s lockdowns this year is set to hit $7 billion.

“The Federal Government has said the economic support measures that were set up for NSW are a template for other states should they be plunged into lockdowns. We look forward to the Government swiftly following through on that commitment for Victorian workers who will be displaced and the businesses that are forced to temporarily close their doors.

“NSW and Victoria are the engine rooms of the national economy, and with Australia’s two largest states now in lockdown, our pandemic recovery is in a precarious position,” he said.

Zahra says vulnerable businesses in Victoria have yet to recover from last year’s lockdown, and has criticised the slow pace of the national vaccine rollout.

“It’s clear that vaccines are our only ticket to freedom and the only way we’ll see an end to lockdowns and restrictions that are crippling so many businesses and livelihoods.

“The ARA continues to work with the Federal Government on how the retail industry can assist in the vaccine rollout and we stand ready to support this effort in any way we can,” he said.

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