Australia has been subjected to a summer of disasters. Large-scale bushfires that ravaged numerous regional communities, a longstanding drought, and now the Coronavirus outbreak have all left an impact that now extends beyond those directly affected. This was demonstrated in last week’s Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) retail report for January which recorded a decline in turnover of 0.3 per cent nationwide.
These glum figures have led some economists to warn that Australia definitely risks going into recession for the first time in nearly 30 years. This should reinforce the need for drastic action from elected officials to boost economic activity across the board.
At the time of writing, the Federal Government has announced that it will be providing a $10 billion stimulus. The details are yet to be unveiled, but the indications are that a comprehensive package will be announced by Wednesday or Thursday of this week. As we have advocated on numerous occasions, measures such as tax relief, investment incentives and a halt on added regulation would all directly help retailers. While infrastructure spending is always an effective way to kick-start the economy more generally and would have a positive flow-on effect to sectors such as retail.
Although the Coronavirus does lift the chances of Australia heading into recession, paradoxically it is also leading to panic-buying by consumers. We have all seen the headlines around toilet paper being emptied from shelves, but items such as hand sanitiser, tissues and long-lasting food products such as pasta and rice are also being hoarded by shoppers. However, panic-buying on these items isn’t going to break retail’s struggling sales predicament and action is required from government at all levels.
In the meantime, as mentioned previously take a safety-first approach when it comes to both your individual health and that of your staff. With further cases occurring in Australia, it’s crucial that anyone demonstrating the symptoms sees a medical professional as early as possible.
Again, if you’re unsure of your legal obligations to staff regarding issues stemming from the Coronavirus, please contact the NRA Workplace Relations team on 1800 RETAIL (738 245) to ensure you follow the correct process.
Have a great week!