New figures from an Australian Retailers Association (ARA) survey shows staff shortages are the most pressing challenge facing the industry at the moment, with 76 per cent of respondents saying they have staff in isolation due to COVID-19.
Half the retail businesses surveyed ranked ‘staff shortages’ as the number one challenge currently, followed by ‘lack of customers’ and ‘supply chain/delivery issues’, with a third noting they had limited trading hours in some locations while one in five had closed locations due to the problem.
The findings demonstrate an “ongoing juggling act for retailers and their rostering managing the current isolation requirements”, according to ARA CEO Paul Zahra.
“We’ve entered an unprecedented staffing challenge as more people are infected with COVID than at any stage before in the pandemic. This builds on an existing skills crisis within the retail and hospitality sectors,” Zahra said.
“Many retailers are having to limit trading hours or close stores altogether because they don’t have the staff available. For small businesses, a couple of cases can wipe out their entire workforce.
“We welcome the moves to ease isolation requirements on essential workers who are close contacts. However, more needs to be done to ease the pressure on this critical workforce so they can adequately staff their stores and move essential goods efficiently across the country.”
Zahra reiterated calls to the Federal, State and Territory governments to work more closely with the industry to clear any impediments to getting people safely back to work, and return domestic supply chains to a more sustainable footing.
“Whilst we expect supply chain challenges to linger for the rest of the year due to global pressures, we do expect this short-term congestion to ease in the coming weeks as Omicron cases hopefully peak and decline as predicted by the health authorities,” Zahra said.
“Retailers are working intensely to solve these challenges for their customers as they have throughout the pandemic. We ask that customers remain patient and respectful towards their teams during this intense period.”
Updated at 2.56pm AEDT on 10 January 2022.
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