Coast retailers prepare to fight ‘economic sledgehammer’
A RETAIL resurgence on the Sunshine Coast will heavily rely on strong financial relief programs as the embattled sector fights to remain viable.
Coronavirus restrictions have significantly affected shop owners in the region, with the state now left to pick up the pieces as regulations ease.
National Retail Association CEO Dominique Lamb said the virus had enhanced issues the retail industry was already experiencing.
"Like all industries, the biggest immediate challenge facing retail is the devastating impact of COVID-19," she said.
"Many people also forget that retail was seriously struggling even before the pandemic eventuated.
"We've seen many notable brands close their doors or downsize their operations in the past 18 months."
Retail turnover on the Coast is about $6 billion each year according to Ms Lamb, with the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealing retail spending fell a record 17.9 per cent in April across the country.
While Ms Lamb said it was too early to tell how much revenue had been lost on the Coast, the tourist hot spot was "guaranteed" to be significantly impacted by the virus.
"The economic sledgehammer of COVID-19 has seen tens of thousands of retail businesses facing an uncertain future," she said.
"Whether it's visiting cafes and restaurants, purchasing souvenirs at local shops, or exploring the numerous attractions the Sunshine Coast offers, tourists to the area form a significant part of the local retail economy."
Ms Lamb said retail shop owners would continue to need assistance to reboot the industry after restrictions were eased.
"Measures that help struggling businesses manage their cash flow effectively could prove the difference between many surviving or falling," she said.
"For instance, programs such as JobKeeper will need to be carefully monitored in terms of how long it remains in place and how it gets pared back as the economy steadily starts to reopen."
Sunshine Plaza centre manager Michael Manwaring said 80 per cent of retailers opened their doors to customers over the weekend, with the reopening of Myer expected to increase traffic.
"Some stores are still trading flexibly and we'll continue to support them as needed, with store information and hours available on our website," he said.
"We'll be maintaining the precautionary measures we've put in place to prevent infection in our centre - installation of hand sanitiser stations throughout the centre, increased frequency of cleaning customer touchpoints and signage and floor decals to encourage social distancing."