ARA 2020 End of Year Wrap

BY Paul Zahra
18 December 2020

A video message from our CEO, Paul Zahra.

Paul end of year speech - subtitled


From bushfires to a global pandemic, we’ve seen more disruption this year than in any decade I can remember.

Despite these tough times, it’s good to end the year knowing the ARA and our sector are in a healthier position than we thought we would be at the start of the pandemic.

This result has come about through the efforts of many people ... in fact 2020 has been an amazing year of unity for our sector.

It has also been a year of achievement, despite the odds. 

And I wanted to share with you just a few of the ARA highlights from this year in this end of year wrap-up. 

I am also excited to share our new ARA look for 2021 - as our sector is transforming, we have worked in partnership with the talented creative agency team at TBWA/Fabric to update our branding. You can see this in the video below. We have worked in partnership with the talented creative agency team at TBWA/Fabric to update our branding.

You can see this in the video below.


ARA rebrand reveal video


The ARA Influence is growing

Despite all the disruptions, the ARA has experienced strong growth in many areas.

We now hold the majority of Australia’s major retailers within our membership - and more than 95% of SMB retailers.

What this means for our members is more stability and more influence.

This year we created a regular roundtable of the most influential retailers in the country.

The power of this group helped us with many wins for our sector - like an agreement on Australia-wide Covid-safe protocols and the creation of industry-wide events such as First Responders Day. 

We also introduced many Small to Medium Size business initiatives - including focused training offerings and special services.

And we created many new Member committees to serve the diverse interests of our membership - from taxation, to workplace relations, from leasing and payments to digital innovation and diversity and inclusion.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to these groups. Our members are very well represented and we’ve seen some powerful outcomes with more to come. 

The ARA has grown its profile and the profile of the retail sector significantly this year - holding the dominant share of voice for our sector. As two highlights, we featured in a National Press Club appearance which was screened live on the ABC (an ARA First) as well as an appearance on the prestigious Federal Budget night panel with ABC television (another ARA first). 

Our Industry Advocacy

We advocated for big changes at a government level this year - with great success.  Here’s just a few of the advocacy wins we were able to achieve for members:

  • Last week, we were proud to learn that many of the changes we have fought so hard for on an Industrial Relations front have been adopted by the Federal Government - particularly in the casuals area. 
  • We worked with the ACCC to introduce the ability to bargain collectively on rents with landlords - this was an industry-first. 
  • We helped instigate the National Mandatory Leasing Code of Conduct – this has helped prevent thousands of SMB retailers from financial collapse.  
  • We successfully appealed for a delay on the Annual Wage Review for the National Minimum Wage - which was delayed until February 2021 for the retail sector.  
  • We advocated for the extension of JobKeeper and JobSeeker - including the introduction of tapered payments for workforce casuals. 
  • We successfully lobbied for retail trading hours to be extended in many jurisdictions and for a range of retail-focused SMB business grants and support programs by State governments around the country. 
  • Victoria has been a big focus and our efforts resulted in the ability for online trading to continue throughout the lockdown and for distribution centres and dark stores to return to normal staffing levels early.  
  • We have made a significant contribution to the important Industrial Relations reforms currently being negotiated, with my personal participation in the Federal Working Party on workforce casuals.  
  • Many of the ARA’s recommendations around Single Use Plastics and Container Deposit Schemes around the country have now been adopted.

Education & Training

Our ARA Retail Institute commenced the new financial year with a suite of new virtual accredited and non-accredited courses, with already very good uptake on these new courses.

Looking forward

Economic recovery is going to be slow - especially for those in discretionary retail categories, for Victorian retailers and those in CBD locations. 

Yet overall, I believe we can feel optimistic about the numbers around the country in the coming months 

We have maintained that retail will ultimately be transformed by this crisis. And we have already seen the powerful acceleration of digital trends as retailers evolve how they deliver the customer experience. 

We said at the start of the pandemic we would see a decade’s worth of positive transformation out of this. Online has elevated to 10% of sales - it is likely to hit 20% soon in Australia.

Retailers are amongst the most agile business operators and have demonstrated time and again through this pandemic that they can adapt. 

As a member based organisation and a not-for-profit that invests solely in the sustainability of our industry, we look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure the viability of our fabulous sector.   

We wish you, your teams and your families all the best for this festive and holiday season. 

Stay Safe and Happy Trading.

New call-to-action


Paul Zahra

Paul Zahra is the CEO of the Australian Retailers Association. As a leading retail expert, he has worked in the industry for nearly forty years holding senior leadership roles at some of Australia’s largest ASX listed retailers. He has also worked with start-ups, private equity and small retail businesses.

Become a Retail Insider

Join 11,000+ Australian Retailers