rush hour

The National Cabinet has implemented Stage 1 of a shutdown of non-essential activity across the country, impacting pubs, clubs, nightclubs, casinos, licensed venues in hotels, gyms, indoor sporting venues, places of worship, cinemas, entertainment venues, and dine-in services at restaurants and cafes.

Appliance Retailer contacted several major electrical retailers for an update on their trading conditions, in light of the announcement.

Harvey Norman confirmed that its Australian franchisees will continue to operate and that its “business as usual at this stage”. Last week, Harvey Norman was forced to close its Slovenian, Croatia and Malaysian stores per government advice, until further notice.

In a trading update released on Thursday, Harvey Norman Australia reported a 9.1% sales increase from 1 March to 17 March 2020 with comparable sales up 9.4% in the same period, attributed to 300% growth in freezer sales and 100% growth in air purifiers, according to Harvey Norman chairman, Gerry Harvey.

Other popular products include laptops, webcams, coffee machines, bread makers, food savers, steam laundry products and steam floor cleaners, as consumers settle in to work from home and prepare for self-isolation with growing concern around their health and wellbeing.

JB Hi-Fi remains open for business, releasing a trading update on Monday for the period 1 January to 22 March 2020.

JB Hi-Fi Australia saw sales growth of 9.1% and comparable sales growth of 8.8%. JB Hi-Fi New Zealand recorded a 2% drop in both total sales and comparable sales, while The Good Guys recorded growth of 10.4% in total sales and comparable sales.

“The company continued to see strong momentum in Australia through the quarter with an acceleration in recent weeks as both JB Hi-Fi and The Good Guys provided retail and commercial customers with essential products to respond and prepare for COVID-19, including technology products that enable remote working, learning and communication, and essential appliances for food storage and preparation,” the statement said.

JB Hi-Fi has also implemented a number of additional actions to protect the health and safety of all people who visit any of the premises including additional and intensive cleaning of all stores, offices and distribution centres; customer store traffic management processes; social distancing practices in high traffic areas such as counter queues; encouraging cashless transactions; restricting travel and meetings; and adopting flexible working arrangements.

Bunnings stores will remain open unless otherwise advised and online shopping including delivery is available for customers unable to visit a store.

In a statement shared with Appliance Retailer, Bunnings managing director, Mike Schneider said, “We understand the importance of a reliable supply of key products for both DIY and trade customers, particularly with emergency repairs and maintenance, and we will continue to look at ways in which we can continue to service these needs in the changing environment.

“We are also hearing from customers that have projects to do, whether big or small, around the home is a useful physical and mental distraction to the challenges of extended periods of time at home.”

On Friday, Bunnings parent company, Wesfarmers, said all of the group’s businesses – including Kmart, Target and Officeworks – have implemented a series of actions to protect the health and safety of teams, including restricting travel and meetings, adopting flexible working arrangements and implementing additional health and safety protocols in stores, support offices and other workplaces.

“These measures also include actions to protect the safety of our customers, with more intensive cleaning of stores and an increased focus on cashless transactions. We are also focused on supporting our team members, suppliers and community partners through the significant challenges posed by COVID-19. The recent announcements by our businesses to extend paid leave to casuals for shifts during periods of self-isolation and Bunnings donations to community partners due to the cancellation of sausage sizzle over the next month, are examples of our support,” Wesfarmers managing director, Rob Scott said.

Shaver Shop also continues to operate, releasing a trading update on Tuesday reporting an 11% decrease in total like for like sales, including online, over the past week, while the rate of decline in LFL sales in bricks and mortar stores was 23%.

“Our online channel is performing better, but the growth in this channel is not enough to offset the decline in sales observed in our B&M stores in recent weeks,” the statement read.

“Up until last week, we were on track to deliver a record sales and earnings result for Shaver Shop in FY20. It is now just too difficult to forecast with any degree of certainty, what our sales or earnings will be in the weeks and months ahead.

“Given the exceptional current circumstances and heightened uncertainty in relation to prospects, Shaver Shop is withdrawing its FY20 earnings guidance.”

Bi-Rite is keeping a close eye on the situation as it is evolving daily and the business is doing its best to be as transparent as possible, according to Abdul Kayum Sacur from head office.

“The first quarter of this calendar year has been quite strong in terms of sales uplift despite the challenges faced not just from the coronavirus, but bushfires and drought throughout the country. Certain categories have been driven through panic buying and have created stock constraints nationally with suppliers advising they will not be able to replenish stock until June.

“With regards to daily operations, our new point of sale system allows store owners to do back-end work remotely including purchase orders, reporting and even sales should the need arise. Our support office team are in a position where everyone can continue to operate remotely without disruption and face to face meetings are being replaced by Zoom or Skype.

“Our priority at this stage is ensuring that every precaution is being taken whether it is in our office or on the floor to minimise the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.”

Camberwell Electrics store owner, Hans Vanderstadt said his business remains open, but he is preparing for the next stage of the shutdown plan. Although he said an appliance store could be considered “essential” if a customer’s refrigerator was to break down for example.

Bing Lee has confirmed that its stores are not impacted by the restrictions but as the situation is fluid, the retailer is monitoring government advice daily.

Myer has also confirmed with Appliance Retailer that all of its stores remain open for business.