Finance Consumer Big retailer demands review of Victoria’s shutdown

Big retailer demands review of Victoria’s shutdown

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Victoria’s economy-crippling Stage 4 coronavirus restrictions should be reviewed within weeks to see if large retailers can open up, Wesfarmers says.

Weeks of stay-home restrictions and compulsory mask-wearing directives have failed to stem the spread of the deadly virus in the state, prompting the state government to introduce a harsher lockdown this week.

Among the restrictions, shops – beyond supermarkets, grocery outlets and bottle shops – will have to close to online shopping only.

“There’s an opportunity in a very measured, risk-based way, that we review this over the coming weeks as the New Zealand government did as they worked through their lockdown,” Wesfarmers managing director Rob Scott told Radio National on Tuesday.

He said the company’s large-format stores such as Bunnings and Officeworks were better placed to have customers in store because they could spread out.

“I’m hopeful that in the coming weeks as we start to see the demand coming from coming from households and families for additional products and as we as we try to reduce the devastating toll this is going to place on household budgets that we can find a way to keep product flowing in a safe way,” Mr Scott said.

Wesfarmers has about 25,000 retail workers in Victoria. Some will be diverted to work in click-and-collect but others face being stood down.

Mr Scott said Wesfarmers had two weeks pay in place for such workers but after that the workers would need to look at government subsidies.

Victoria’s tough virus lockdown is expected to run until at least September 13 – six weeks away.