A high-profile jeweller who refused to shut up shop during the COVID-19 lockdown has accused the government of ‘terrorism’ and claims retailers that have closed ‘ought be ashamed’ – as calls grow for business to get back to work.
Holloway Diamonds’ founder Garry Holloway has plastered his Canterbury shop, in Melbourne’s leafy inner east, with banners declaring: ‘We Are Open’ and ‘People need to be paid’.
With more than 100,000 retail workers stood down since the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the economy in freefall, pressure is mounting on the government to re-open shops as the curve of infections continues flatten.
But a cautious Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg warned against lifting restrictions on Australian businesses too early as it would risk a ‘second wave’ of infections.
Holloway Diamonds’ boss Garry Holloway says retailers that have closed their doors should be ashamed of themselves for putting people off work
A sign stuck in the window of Holloway Diamonds in Melbourne’s inner east. Holloway Diamonds’ boss Garry Holloway says retailers should go back to work
A Just Jeans retail outlet in Melbourne stands closed after the decision by its parent company Premier Investments was made to shut it’s stores and stand down staff on March 29
‘There are real challenges ahead. People should not be complacent. Patience is a real virtue,’ he said on Thursday.
People walking past Mr Holloway’s shop on Thursday stopped to take photos of his public protest.
One sign stuck in his shop window states: ‘Retailers that shut and laid off people should be ashamed of themselves! Only nails and beauty salons have been closed by law.’
‘These are crazy times,’ one woman told Daily Mail Australia.
But a defiant Mr Holloway stood by his statements when questioned by Daily Mail Australia.
‘I think they should be ashamed of themselves,’ Mr Holloway said on Thursday.
‘Because they’ve put people off. What are they going to do for money?’
Mr Holloway said while it was simple for large retailers, with more financial clout to close down, smaller retailers should remain open to support their staff.
‘Those part timers, they’re not going to get paid. They’re closed, so they’re not going to get the $750 a week. So consequently nobody goes to the shops,’ he said.
Mr Holloway said people could not survive long without immediate income coming in.
‘It’s pretty bad. You’ve put people off now for two or three weeks … How many people that work in retail and tourism and all sorts of businesses now don’t have anything to pay the rent? To pay for food?’ he said.
‘In a year we’re going to be stuffed if people don’t stand up to be counted and actually force the government to relax a little bit.’
It is a growing sentiment among some of the nation’s largest retailers, who have joined the chorus in asking the government for a view to the end of the lockdown.
Holloway Diamonds in Canterbury is a shining beacon of retail health among a quiet strip of shops that includes another jeweller just down the street, which remains closed
One of many signs stuck to the windows of Holloway Diamonds in Canterbury, just outside of Melbourne
Closed shop fronts are seen inside an Outlet Shopping Centre in Canberra on Wednesday
The Grim Reality Of Australia’s Retail Doom
According to data from retail point-of-sale software provider Vend, turnover fell an average 28.4 per cent from February to March
Victorian retailers were hardest hit, with turnover falling 40 per cent
Turnover for West Australian and NSW retailers fell about 34 per cent
Sales last week were down 48 per cent compared with an average week in February
Wesfarmers chief executive Rob Scott told the AFR that government efforts to flatten the curve through social distancing and tackling areas of highest risk had been effective.
‘As infection rates decrease, it does give us the ability to start relaxing these restrictions, but it needs to be done in a cautious way,’ Mr Scott said.
Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox said it was vital that the government clarified the plan for a way out.
‘A lot of businesses won’t come back, so the economy that we had before won’t be the economy we have in the future,’ he said.
Shane Fallscheer, the chief executive of jewellery chain Lovisa, agreed that more clarity on lockdown laws was needed, saying retailers and consumers were confused about what they could and could not do.
The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association declared retailers should continue trading to keep people in work.
Mr Holloway said there was no law that prevented people from leaving their homes during the lockdown.
‘They’re asking you nicely not to leave your home. The police are booking people, but the police commissioners in every state have said: ‘We’re not actually going to make all these people pay these fines”,’ he said.
‘What they’re doing is a terrorist campaign. There is no law to say that I have to close.’
Mr Holloway, who did not remove his mask while speaking with Daily Mail Australia, said he had been operating responsibly during the crisis.
His 56 square metre shop allows 14 people to be inside it at any time, staff wear masks and they frequently disinfect surfaces, he said.
A lone person walks through an empty shopping arcade in Melbourne this month amid the COVID-19 lockdown
Another sign stuck to the windows of Holloway Diamonds in Canterbury. The shop has remained open amid the COVID-19 chaos
Holloway Diamonds’ boss Garry Holloway says retailers that shut shop should be ashamed of themselves for putting people out of work
‘The thing that is going on isn’t fair from a point of view that the (International Monetary Fund) has said rich companies will go down by six percent GDP – in the GFC the lowest we got to ion the rich country world was .1 per cent average,’ Mr Holloway said.
‘So this is going to be much closer to the 1930s depression and it’s going to make GFC look like a walk in the park.’
Mr Holloway said if the government did not begin to start relaxing the lockdown by mid-next month, Australia faced worse problems than the deaths caused by COVID-19.
‘We’re going to have suicides like we’ve never seen, mental health (issues) are just going to soar – and the government is going to have to fund (agencies). Domestic violence, kids’ behaviour is off the charts. It’s terrible,’ he said.
Mr Holloway is no stranger to life changing situations and controversy after his business was repeatedly robbed by African gangs in 2017.
The shop is now fitted with a state-of-the-art security system that fills it with smoke when activated.
Back then, Mr Holloway hit out at Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews for failing to address the issue.
‘They’re not talking about it. They don’t want to talk about it,’ he said at the time.
Mr Holloway told Daily Mail Australia he has managed to keep his businesses afloat with a commonsense approach that allows staff to work within the shop and from home.
Clever thinking has further allowed him to identify new avenues of business that is producing good results during the lockdown.
‘I’ve had a few people say that this is irresponsible, but we’re trying to be as responsible as we can,’ Mr Holloway said.
‘If we don’t pay people, we’re going to have huge ramifications and it’s those huge ramifications that concern me.’