Some retailers across Australia are reopening their doors with increased social distancing measures in place to protect customers from the spread of coronavirus.
Despite restrictions being in force across most of the country from late March, Brand Collective CEO Martin Matthews expected some consumers to stay away from the shops out of fear.
Brand Collective manages labels including Shoes and Sox, Clarks and Mossimo.
Last month, the company confirmed it would temporarily stand down the majority of its workforce – around 1700 employees – over financial concerns stemming from the COVID-19 lockdowns.
“It’s been devastating for retailers,” he said. “Retail employs over million people around Australia.
“It’s really tough for our people to be at home and not have the certainty of their jobs. It’s also tough for our customers who are stuck at home and in some cases itching to get out and shop.”
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian encouraged retailers to reopen provided they – and shoppers – adhered to strict social distancing rules.
“Please make sure that when you’re in those shops, when you’re shopping there’s good social distancing but also that you follow all the hygiene requirements,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“Of course the retail outlets themselves have to follow those requirements in terms of making sure they have social distancing in their stores. They also have hand sanitiser available. We want to make sure that both the retailers and customers appreciate what they need to do.”
Mr Matthews confirmed extra measures will be strictly enforced when some of the company’s shops reopen around the country this week.
“We actually put in place a lot of measures before we closed. All of those measures will carry through. Things like thorough hygiene procedures cleaning all surfaces. Having access to hand sanitiser for both our staff and our customers.”
The one person per four square metre rule would be widened to one person per 10 square metres, he confirmed.
“We’re trying to be thorough as possible. Where there is typically an interaction between our people and our customers for example, we have some footwear businesses so that the whole fitting process or change rooms in our clothing businesses, we’ll make sure that we’ll be servicing in a social distant way.
“We’ll still give support and advice but doing so at safe distance.”
Accent Group, which operates a number of high-profile footwear retailers including Platypus, Athlete’s Foot and Hype DC, announced it would gradually reopen stores from May 11 along with Myer.
Mr Matthews said he expected sales would take time to improve as communities adjust to the gradual reopening of shops.
“What we’ve seen in other parts of the world is sales will continue to be down – 50 to 60 per cent in the first few months as people start to get their comfort with the new environment.”
He expected some retailers would be forced to trade online only, as they struggle to recover from the coronavirus restrictions.
“The retail sector was already challenged coming into this,” Mr Matthews said. “The retailers that were already in financial distress will struggle to get through this.
“Online has being a saviour for businesses with strong online presence.”
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