The Shopping Centre Council of Australia is pushing for rent relief measures to be overturned.

SCCA executive director Angus Nardi claimed requests for rental assistance from SME retailers are in decline as retail trading improves, consumer confidence returns and foot traffic increases.

“The need for retail rental assistance has passed a critical turning point as retail trading conditions pickup and consumers return to stores.

“All the key indicators are up, with foot traffic and store openings sitting at 95% and continuing to increase, average retail spend per visit is also increasing and Santa photos are being booked out as the Christmas trading peak approaches.

“Throughout the pandemic our members have continued to provide valuable rental assistance to retailers, with nearly $2 billion of rental assistance provided to approximately 12,000 SME retailers,” he said.

“While some closures and restrictions such as maximum patron capacity remain in place, restrictions for retail, hospitality and other categories have largely eased across the country.

“Every step towards normalised COVID-safe trading gives a boost to retail, whether it’s lifting patron limits or reducing the one person per four square metre density rule as we’ve seen in some jurisdictions.

“We strongly believe there is no evidence to justify any further extension of the Code of Conduct beyond December in jurisdictions such as Victoria, NSW and Queensland. It has served the purpose it was conceived for when we developed it with retailer groups in March.”

Nardi said most retailers had opted out of rental assistance and some opportunistic traders were "gaming" the system.

“Continuing the code in the current favourable trading conditions has allowed some retailers to game the system and draw landlords into unnecessary stalemates,” he said. 

“Our focus should be on getting everyone open and continuing to provide a COVID Safe and secure environment guided by public health principles, not bartering on rental agreements."

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