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Coronavirus prompts post-Xmas retail boom

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South Australians are projected to fork out as much as $43 million more during this year’s Boxing Day sales compared to last year, the Retailers Association estimates, citing low coronavirus case numbers and overseas travel bans.

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All up, South Australians are expected to spend $1.25 billion – an increase of 3.5 per cent on last year according to an Australian Retailers Association and Roy Morgan forecast.

The association’s CEO Paul Zahra told InDaily the figures indicated a “very strong result” for retailers, particularly during a year marred by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns.

He said the result could be attributed to the relatively low infection rates in South Australia, the stimulus cash still in the economy and money being diverted from overseas travel.

It comes off the back of strong retail sales in November, with the Zahra describing last month as “incredible” for Australian retailers.

Preliminary Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows national spending was up 13.2 per cent compared to the same time last year.

Australia Post also reported a 55.6 per cent year on year increase in online purchases in November.

“This shows Australia has well and truly embraced the global Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping tradition in the lead-up to Christmas,” Zahra said.

“We saw spending boosted this year over the lead up to Christmas, with great momentum building up to the Boxing Day sales.

“More people are shopping from the convenience of their own home, and getting the things they need delivered straight to their door.”

According to the Retailers Association, the most popular pre-Christmas purchases in South Australia included household goods and food, aligning with this year’s shift towards staying and working from home.

Zahra said while the forecasted data boded well for retailers in 2021, the association was “cautious” about the end to the JobKeeper and JobSeeker schemes.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is preparing to axe the JobKeeper scheme in March as part of the Government’s shift in focus to create new jobs.

Zahra said the looming cut-off date, coupled with the recent rise of COVID-19 infections in Australia and ongoing border restrictions would “begin to take their toll”.

“We believe it’s important to take a consultative approach with the business community and retailers who need as much preparation as possible for any changes to restrictions,” he said.

“We are advocating for a set of nationally agreed standards and COVID protocols so there is much more certainty for Australians and, in particular, for the business community.

“Whilst many retailers overall have managed to remain resilient, we can’t afford for 2021 to be a roller coaster of uncertainty or we will begin to pay the price in business insolvencies and jobs.”

Zahra said it was “critical” that retailers received targeted support when lockdowns occurred, with the association preferencing a hot-spot approach to containing clusters rather than sweeping statewide lockdowns.

He said South Australian retailers were also keen to see the state’s trading hours “modernise and align with other states”.

“We are in a 24/7 world – SA retail must align if it wants to thrive in what is now a global retail economy,” he said.

“NSW and Victoria set the gold standard for trading hours where retail stores are unrestricted to the exception of a few restricted days throughout the year.

“Extending trading hours during this critical period of trading would allow for foot traffic to be dispersed across a longer period, thereby delivering a more COVID-safe practice for consumers and the wider public.”

This year’s Boxing Day was the third year in the state’s history that all suburban retailers were permitted to open.

Treasurer Rob Lucas said the Government was “proud to be backing businesses to open when they choose and, in turn, providing greater flexibility for consumers and more job opportunities for those staff who want to work”.

“The proof of the pudding is in the eating and, once again, South Australians have voted with their feet in favour of sensible shop trading hours reform,” he said.

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