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Vic Retailers Dare To Hope As Andrews Flags Lockdown Lift

Victorian retailers are breathing a sigh of relief at Premier Dan Andrews’ plan to ease COVID restrictions in time for Christmas shopping.

With daily coronavirus cases now in single digits, Andrews yesterday announced a preliminary “Third Step” timetable that will see businesses able to open from 11:59pm on November 1, with no restrictions on reasons to leave home.

“This is a timeline that is based on the current advice of our public health team. But if we continue to track well on the most important indicators – case averages, mystery cases, test numbers and the number of days people wait before they get tested – we may be in a position to move sooner.

“Under this step, all remaining retail will open. Restaurants, cafes and pubs will open. And personal and beauty services will be able to offer treatments to clients – as long as a face mask can be worn.

“These businesses will be able to have staff onsite for a ‘dark opening’ from 28 October, giving them time to prepare to open their doors to the public,” the Premier said.

Paul Zahra, CEO of the Australian Retail Association (ARA), said these measures are a step in the right direction and a sign that the government is listening to the needs of retailers.

“Whilst this date is many weeks later than we would have hoped, it is just in time for the official start of the Christmas shopping period and a very welcome news for retailers who have been desperately seeking clarity for months.

“The ARA has been calling for store staff to have the ability to return earlier to begin the arduous task of store preparations in time for the busiest and most important trading period of the year,” he said.

One in ten Australians is employed in the retail sector, with a quarter of the country’s sales coming from Victoria; additionally, the state is home to most retail warehousing and distribution. According to Zahra, the extended lockdowns have cost thousands of retail jobs and left businesses hanging on for dear life.

“Retailers make up to two-thirds of their profits at this time of year and that income has never been more desperately needed.

“Every day we get closer to Christmas creates a challenge to retailers in managing pent up demand and crowds. Not only are businesses needing to prepare for any Covid-related measures, they also need to be getting ready for Christmas, which includes potentially hiring extra workers and ordering and merchandising new inventory,” he said.

Some COVID restrictions have been eased in Victoria from today, including the extension of the 5km limit on travel from homes to 25km, and the ability for groups of up to ten people from two households to meet up in outdoor public settings.

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