More retailers shut down in COVID-19 crisis

26/03/2020 - 15:09

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Just Jeans, Peter Alexander and Smiggle are among several Australian brands set to close their doors tonight due to the COVID-19 crisis, while commercial landlord Dexus has withdrawn its earnings guidance for 2020.

Dexus' assets include Carillon and City Arcades in Perth, and the Woodside and SGIO buildings. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Just Jeans, Peter Alexander and Smiggle are among several Australian brands set to close their doors tonight due to the COVID-19 crisis, while commercial landlord Dexus has withdrawn its earnings guidance for 2020.

Premier Investments, which owns Just Group – whose brands comprise Dotti, Just Jeans, Jacqui-E, Peter Alexander, Portmans, Jay Jays and Smiggle – announced today it had no choice but to temporarily close all its retail stores until April 22.

ASX-listed Premier Investments said its main focus was on the health and safety of its employees, customers and the broader community.

“Regrettably, this means all employees in Australia are to be stood down, except for a small number of employees required to perform limited essential work,” Premier told the market.

It disclosed 9,000 employees would be impacted by the closures.

The entire Just Group executive team has also been stood down but have agreed to work from home when required with either no pay or reduced leave entitlements, Premier said.

Its chief executive Mark McInnis will also work from home without pay or access to entitlements during the shutdown period.

Further, Premier non-executive directors will not receive any remuneration during this period.

Premier said close to 70 per cent of stores in Australia and New Zealand were already in holdover or with leases expiring this year.

“These extraordinary circumstances mean Premier intends not to pay any rent globally for the duration of the shutdown,” Premier said.

“This is the hardest decision ever made by Premier – our team are our family and we want to do everything we can to keep them employed, but we believe that it is necessary and the right decision for them, their families, our customers and the country.”

Western Australia’s Miss Maud has also closed all of its stores and catering today.

Miss Maud made the announcement yesterday, citing it would meet measures put in place by the federal government to limit the spread of COVID-19.

In the wake of the widespread collapses, the Shopping Centre Council of Australia has asked its members to not terminate leases for non-payment of rent 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," SCCA chairman Peter Allen said.

At the same time, commercial landlord Dexus withdrew its 2020 guidance, citing the evolving COVID-19 situation, more than a month after the company released strong first half results in February that included net profit of $994.2 million.

The group’s assets include Carillon and City Arcades in Perth, and major office buildings at 240 St Georges Terrace and Kings Square.

Dexus chief executive Darren Steinberg said shopping centres were “bearing the brunt of this evolving global situation”.

He said it was important the group protected its tenant base, in particular small and medium enterprises and retailers who support Dexus’ office towers.

“SMEs are the lifeblood of the country and we need to ensure we look after them, so that when we inevitably emerge from this event, they can return to normal operations as soon as possible,” Mr Steinberg said.

“As a priority, we remain focused on the health, safety and wellbeing of our employees and the people in our buildings.

“We have adopted internal business continuity measures to minimise the disruption to our business and have implemented government guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19 at our properties.”

Dexus has $1.3 billion cash and around $400 million in debt, maturing in late FY21.

Shares in the group closed down nearly 1 per cent to trade at $9.22.

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