Retail reopens ahead of Christmas trading

By David Schout

Southbank retailers finally got their wish in late October as Premier Daniel Andrews gave the green light to reopen two months out from Christmas.

After an anxiety-filled year, outlets forced to shut on July 8 reopened on October 28 after a gruelling second wave of lockdowns in Melbourne.

For 112 days, most Southbank retailers were open for click-and-collect only and struggled in an environment few could remain profitable in.

Pedestrian counters during the second wave revealed foot traffic was down up to 90 per cent compared to the same time in 2019. 

However, there were early signs of a bounce-back in the days following reopening.

Newly re-elected Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the news was a rich reward.

“All Melburnians will welcome today’s announcement by the Premier that our city will take a major reopening step on Wednesday. Hospitality and retail can reopen safely and that means cash registers ringing and more Melburnians back to work,” she said.  

“Our community has done an amazing job to slow the spread of the virus. Melbourne did what we needed to do and so did the Premier. Now it’s time to restart our economy safely to support businesses and save jobs.”

Retailers are confident that, as movement picks up, recovery can begin.

Most office workers, however, will remain at home: employers are being told if their employees can work away from the office, they must. 

Retail landlord Vicinity Centres reported good numbers at its centres, which includes DFO South Wharf, on the October 28 re-opening day.

Foot traffic was at around 80 per cent of the levels at the corresponding day in 2019.

The company announced it would be using state of the art technology to handle the return to retail, including heat-mapping to monitor and respond to congested areas in its centres.

It would also allow customers to pre-book a time to shop, while in-centre shoppers could use a QR code to join a virtual queue, rather than lining up outside a store if capacity was reached.

Australian Retailers Association (ARA) CEO Paul Zahra welcomed the return and said small and midsize retailers had been hit hard by “significant delays and setbacks, along with mounting financial concerns”.

“But this long-awaited opening means that a COVID-safe normalcy can finally begin to emerge in Victoria,” he said.

“We are pleased at this stage that there are no further retail restrictions than those which have already been communicated, most which have proven to keep shopping a safe experience. This is a point we advocated strongly for, given the exemplary safety performance of retailers throughout the pandemic.”

The City of Melbourne is set to launch its “Shop The City” campaign from November 27 to 30, which will work with the city’s major retailers and shopping precincts to promote special offers and provide marketing assistance. 

Mr Hanney said businesses could register to take part in campaign until close of business on Wednesday, November 4.

“We are looking forward to safely welcoming shoppers back into the city for our annual Shop the City event, which will run in alignment with our Christmas Festival and Melbourne Fashion Week and correspond with major sales shopping days known as Black Friday and Cyber Monday,” he said. 

“It’s an opportunity for shoppers to take advantage of great deals while enjoying activations such as pop-up street runways, food and drink offerings, freebies and music. It’s been a tough year for retail and we are encouraging people to get behind city businesses and give them a much-needed boost over the summer and Christmas holiday period.”

“All activations will be run in a COVID-safe manner, adhering to the necessary restrictions at the time.” •

For more information: shopthecity.com.au

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