The figures from the Shopping Centre Council of Australia show that the number of SME retailers seeking rental assistance is up from 10,045 at the end of July.
However, the SCCA noted that the rate of rental assistance was now trending down, reflecting an improvement of retail trading conditions through an easing of government restrictions, increased foot traffic, store openings and retail spending.
Around 80 per cent of rent relief requests have been agreed to, with the outstanding 20 per cent lacking the required documentation, proof of reduction in turnover or the reasonable request threshold.
SCCA executive director Angus Nardi said the need for retail rental assistance has passed a critical turning point as retail trading conditions pick up and consumers return to stores.
“All the key indicators are up, with foot traffic and store openings sitting at 95 per cent 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,” he said.
Mr Nardi said that 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,” he said.
“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.”
Mr Nardi said most retailers had opted out of rental assistance, but 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,” Mr Nardi 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.”