Shopping centre body demands rent reprieves during COVID-19

A suburban shopping centre in Sydney. Picture: AAP
A suburban shopping centre in Sydney. Picture: AAP

Australia’s peak shopping centre body has called on landlords to help retailers fight through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Retailers have been hit hard by the global outbreak, with a large number forced to shut down – some permanently – as ‘social distancing’ and significant falls in sales make operating impossible.

Shopping centre tenant Premier Investments, which owns brands including Smiggle, Peter Alexander, Just Jeans, Jay Jays, Portmans, Jacqui E and Dotti is one of many to have closed all stores for at least the next month, while Wittner, Saba and Aesop also announced on Thursday they would close.

Meanwhile other national brands including Kikki. K and Tigerlily have shut their doors forever after being unable to weather the early impact of the virus.

But the Shopping Centre Council of Australia has implored shopping centre owners to help their tenants survive the crisis by not forcing them out should they be unable to pay rent.

The council’s chairman Peter Allen says all landlords have a role to play to help retailers – and particularly small to medium sized businesses – stay afloat.

“The SCCA asks members to ensure there are no lease terminations for non-payment of rent for small to medium sized businesses as we work through this period,” Allen says.

Shopping centre tenants have been hit nationwide.

“We continue to work with the Federal Government on a suite of measures to provide additional support for small to medium sized businesses.”

“It is vital that our industry, as a key part of the economy and our local communities, work collaboratively with government and our SME retailers to support their cashflow and jobs across the economy.”

Allen says reports have emerged of shopping centres owners taking a hard line with tenants, which would fly in the face of advice those landlords have been given.

“We have been advised that governments have received direct feedback that some owners are not engaging with the empathy that is required during these times,” he says.

“This is surprising, and if correct, very disappointing and frustrating to hear.”

“As we have stated consistently in our communications throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and this difficult period, we all have a role to play to help our retailers – especially our small to medium sized businesses – to get to the other side.”

“We know that each of you are engaging directly with your retail partners and it is very important you continue to do so.”