Media statement | 26 March 2020
Statement from SDA National Secretary Gerard Dwyer
The decision of Premier Investments to shut its stores for a month is not only a disaster in itself, but a sign of things to come if the government does not step up with further measures to support the retail sector.
Premier Group’s brands have 7,000 staff in Australia (9,000 globally) and around 900 stores around the nation, including Just Jeans, Jay Jays, Smiggle, Portmans, Jacquie E, Peter Alexander and Dotti, many of them in regional centres.
Premier follows Michael Hill, Mosaic Brands, Lovisa and Accent Group in shutting their doors, leaving thousands of workers facing uncertain futures.
The fact that Premier Group will not be paying rent underscores the importance of the government underwriting credit for the retail sector.
The SDA is pleased that the government remains in discussions with retail representatives on this and other critical issues designed to ensure there is a discretionary retail sector left once the COVID-19 emergency passes.
The SDA and the Australian Retailers Association reiterate the urgency of their joint approach to the government for a multi-billion dollar Australian Retail Industry Rescue Package which should include the following measures:
- A wage subsidy for retail workers, to protect their income and their jobs;
- Underwriting a line of credit for retailers (subject to criteria to be determined), to ensure they can continue to trade without being insolvent; and
- A government guarantee of rent payments from retailers to landlords, or the federal government identifying rent reduction measures in conjunction with landlords, with all consequent rent savings to be used by retailers to help pay for employees wages.
The SDA welcomes the support of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Council of Small Business Organisations and other business groups for some or all of these measures.
Act now and thousands of retail workers will be able to put food on the table as well as paying their rent or mortgages, retail businesses will be able to be in some shape to resume business and the economy will be in a position to bounce back more strongly once the emergency passes.
Do nothing and the welfare bill will be bigger for longer, some retailers will never open their doors again and the downturn will be longer.