After a gruelling 106 days in lockdown, Sydney is finally back to business.

It has been a period of uncertainty for our members. Last week we recorded our highest call volumes in the past 18 months as we grappled with mandatory vaccinations and how to reopen safely in NSW. We look forward to seeing Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory follow suit as they race towards vaccination targets. Should you still have questions about mandatory vaccination for your staff, we encourage you to attend our member exclusive webinar this Thursday 14 October.

With the ACT leaving lockdown at 11:59pm Thursday, 14 October 2021 (even though non-essential retail will still only be able to offer click and collect), and Victoria around the 26th October, we’re still advocating strongly on pressure points in the roadmap. The ACT Government has taken the position that retailers can decide whether they will make vaccination a condition of entry to their premises, introducing the risk of unlawful discrimination under the Discrimination Act 1991 (ACT). We have contacted the ACT Government to ask them to provide certainty by having the Public Health Directive address this issue.  The Victorian roadmap has presented issues as well, resulting in the National Retail Association forming a coalition of industry associations including the Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS), Franchise Council of Australia (FCA), Restaurants and Catering Association (RCA), Snowsports Industries of Australia (SIA) and Surf and Boardsports Industry Association (SBIA), to get clarity on the definite of outdoor trading, vaccine mandates, and financial support for struggling businesses.

We strongly welcome the further financial support for small and medium businesses in New South Wales with the Summer Holiday Stock Guarantee announced today. Localised lockdowns are an unwelcome but unavoidable part of reopening, and we have pushed strongly for our members to be given security to reopen and plan for the future.

Lockdowns are also impacting regions that have no restrictions or COVID cases. I am working currently to seek clarity on when borders will reopen for our retailers in hard-hit Queensland tourism hotspots. Premier Palaszczuk continues to show hesitancy as vaccination targets creep towards 70% double dose, but our retailers in Port Douglas, Cairns and other tourism locations do not have the luxury of waiting.

If your business is struggling with the effects of COVID-19, and you would like further information on what government grants and supports are available, we would advise all members to reach out to our finance partners, Vincent’s. Vincent’s have a variety of services available on their hotline, including stimulus relief assistance, grants assistance, and bank relief assistance.

All the best for the week ahead.

Dominique Lamb

Chief Executive Officer