Fashion retailers are refusing to reopen stores
With shoppers hunkered down through much of April and May you would have thought retailers would be champing at the bit to fling their doors open now COVID-19 restrictions are easing.
But a number of big chains are holding out and keeping stores shut despite busy malls and an uptick in consumer spending.
Sussan Group, which operates the Sussan and Sportsgirl womenswear brands, still has large numbers of its stores bolted closed, reported the AFR.
In some centres they are the only stores that have yet to reopen.
There is speculation some retailers may be keeping stores shut until landlords reduce their rent bill. With the Government footing staff costs through JobKeeper, rent is one of the biggest expenditures.
Certainly, some retailers news.com.au has spoken to have said if shopping centre owners don't lower rents in some locations, they may consider closing stores altogether. Other retailers who temporarily closed due to COVID-19 have confirmed they will never reopen some branches.
The federal government only ever forced a small range of retailers to close, and fashion stores were not on that list. Nonetheless, many decided to shut because foot traffic was so low. But as restrictions have been relaxed, many retailers have seized the opportunity to start trading again.
Data released from Commonwealth Bank yesterday showed retail spending was up almost 25 per cent on last June. While much of that is down to food, clothing sales are currently tracking higher year-on-year as people rush to buy new togs.
However, Sussan Group is keeping a slew of stores closed.
On its website, Sussan stated "select stores have reopened on a trial basis from Tuesdays to Saturdays 10am to 4pm".
The firm said the trial was for the "health and safety of customers".
"As this trial evolves, so may our plans," said the company.
In Sydney, stores in suburbs including Leichhardt, Narellan, St Ives and Seven Hills still appear to be shuttered.
Sussan's subsidiary Sportsgirl has a similar message on its website with stores in places including Wollongong, Erina, Bankstown and Balgowlah in New South Wales and Woodgrove and Traralgon in Victoria closed.
Many Rockmans clothes stores, owned by Noni B, also remain shut.
In contrast, other fashion retailers including Myer, H&M and Country Road have reopened all their stores.
Sussan Group was contacted by news.com.au
Speaking to news.com.au last month, Daniel Agostinelli, chief executive officer of footwear retailer Accent Group, the firm behind Athlete's Foot and Platypus, said it could close between 50 and 100 stores.
He said that was chiefly due to the increase in online shopping spurred on by the pandemic. He has urged landlords to reduce rents to make marginal stores more viable as some customers may never return.
"The only word we can find for this shift is seismic and that will have an impact on how many stores we require," Mr Agostinelli told news.com.au.
"Once we come out of COVID, we will review every single store and where we can't come to an agreement with landlords, we will have no choice but to exit that store."
Mr Agostinelli said lease agreements that led to annual increases in excess of store sales growth were "not sustainable".
Some retailers have already abandoned some shopping centres, pulling down the shutters on stores permanently.
Jewellery seller Pandora confirmed to news.com.au it had left Sydney's Top Ryde City shopping centre for good despite a sign on the window of the store saying it was shut due to the pandemic.
Retail experts have said music and gaming retailers were particularly at risk as their products could be purchased just as easily online with no need for people to visit a store.
Originally published as Retailers refusing to reopen stores