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WA retailers respond to Perth lockdown

People living in Perth and surrounding suburbs were forced into lockdown at 6pm on Sunday evening for the first time since March when the virus first hit. However, there was a lack of direction from the Western Australian government for retail trade, so Appliance Retailer reached out to several retailers to understand how the lockdown affects their business.

Hart & Co executive chairman, Rick Hart said there were mixed reactions from local retailers with some deciding to open and some choosing to close.

“After assessing the potential impact of lockdown on Hart & Co and Checkout, we decided to close the doors in the absence of clear instruction and respond to any customer enquiries remotely,” Hart told Appliance Retailer.

“With people ordered to stay at home except for essential reasons, it was unlikely that there would be customers out and about in such circumstances. For us as retailers, it is a minor inconvenience if the health of the state can be protected by these actions. However, retail is a lifeblood of the community so there should be more communication from government sources in uncertain times like these.”

On a final note, Hart said: “WA had largely been protected from the effects of Covid, and this was just another reminder that anything can happen in this environment, and sometimes you may only be hours away from a complete change of circumstances.”

All Harvey Norman stores in WA are now closed, chairman Gerry Harvey told Appliance Retailer, although stores were open yesterday. “But there was no business as no one could leave home.”

He said directions on closures vary across the world and gave an example of this with furniture and bedding stores closed in Ireland and Northern Island, but electrical shops allowed to stay open in Ireland.

“In Australia it changes from state-to-state.” A situation Harvey described as “very confusing.” At the moment it is very difficult for anyone to plan anything. Harvey could not confirm whether click or collect or online were operating in WA, “because everyone is required to stay home unless they are an essential service”.

He added: “The strange thing is that the sales momentum is still strong in retail. It varies from week-to-week from country-to-country but sales across the world are much stronger than they were in the same period last year, and not just for Harvey Norman.”

As of yesterday, four Betta Home Living stores were open and trading under the current restrictions in Perth, however staff are not allowed contact in store or contact deliveries and staff must wear a mask, CEO Graeme Cunningham told Appliance Retailer.

“Because of the lockdown we can still trade online and over the phone, but customers are not allowed into the stores. The same happened in Melbourne where we did trade, not at the normal level but business was quite reasonable online,” he said.

The Camera House store in Perth’s CBD was still open when Appliance Retailer called but would most likely close as there was no traffic, business partner Sky Lu said. “Because the store is part of a business that includes a pharmacy, we can stay open but this is unlikely. 

“We decided to trial for the first day of lockdown but as Camera House is a non-essential part of the business we can choose to close it down,” Lu said. Although he added that he thought the lockdown could stretch beyond five days.

A Winning Appliances team expert confirmed that Joondalup, Myaree, O’Connor and Osborne Park stores are closed with staff working remotely to assist customers. Delivery drivers remain on the road to fulfil orders as they are an essential service.

In the latest update retail businesses, other than food retailing, are not restricted for the Perth metro, Peel and South West lockdown which is in place until 6pm February 5.

However, the National Retail Association has called for further clarification as there is clear inconsistency between retailers being allowed to open their doors but not to have staff attend the workplace.

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