PETALING JAYA: Members of the retail sector have made an “urgent and desperate” plea to the government for all malls and retail outlets to reopen by July 15 or when the 10% Covid-19 vaccination target is achieved.
They said that as the shopping mall and retail industry contributed significantly to the economy, all efforts had to be taken to preserve the performance of the sector.
Malaysian Shopping Malls Association president Tan Sri Teo Chiang Kok said that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned against lockdowns, as they result in extreme economic damage, and that a flexible approach to managing the pandemic must be undertaken.
“We have to accept that it will remain part of our lives and move forward as the economy cannot afford to remain closed continually. Otherwise, we foresee that almost 500,000 employees engaged in the shopping mall and retail industries will eventually be laid off,” he said during a virtual press conference Saturday (July 3).
Also in attendance were representatives from the Malaysian Retailers Association (MRA), the Malaysian Retail Chain Association (MCRA), the Bumiputera Retailers Association (BRO), the Malaysian REIT Managers Association (MRMA), and the Malaysian Association of Amusement Theme Park and Family Attractions (Matfa).
Currently, only industries considered to be essential are allowed to open.
Teo said that the retail sector strictly adhered to the standard operating procedure (SOP), with 0.8% of all Covid-19 cases in May linked to the sector.
Teo said with massive lay-offs, the industry may never recover and would eventually drastically impact other components in the supply chain and the entire retail ecosystem.
He said that footfall in malls since the start of the lockdown in June was less than 5%, compared to 60 to 70% footfall from March to May of this year.
Teo added that the retail sector contributed 34.6% of Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018.
BRO president Datuk Ameer Ali Mydin said that while the government's intentions of placing lockdowns were noble, the only issue they had was the way it was done.
“Lockdown where necessary and let the others open up to survive. That’s the only way the country can move forward. We are already seeing white flags for people who cannot feed themselves. We don’t want to see white flags on retail shoplots,” he said.
MRMA chairman Datuk Hisham Othman said that both lives and livelihoods had to be saved together.
“We can no longer cary on with this concept of lets save lives and then livelihoods... If you just do one, when it comes time to do the other and say we can reopen, there won’t be any more shops left to open because they would have been killed off a few months earlier. This is no exaggeration,” he said.