Based on the information available, it seems likely that businesses will be responsible for checking proof of vaccination at the door, as they’re responsible currently for enforcing face mask and check-in requirements.
We asked four retail leaders what they think about the possibility of enforcing vaccine passports and how it could lead to abuse from customers. Here’s what Mosaic Brands CEO Scott Evans, Accent Group CFO Matt Durbin, Superdry ANZ general manager Antony Hampson and SDA national secretary Gerard Dwyer had to say.
On enforcing vaccine passports
“We’ve started developing plans for what we might need to do based on that announcement last week. It looks as though we’re going to have to have people asking customers to check in at the front door with their vaccination passport, but we don’t know [for certain] yet. That’s the main issue. But we feel as though we’ve had good experience responding quickly to three or four [other Covid requirements] that we’ve had to implement over the last 18 months.” — Matt Durbin, CFO, Accent Group
“We need to ensure that people are compliant with the rules and this may require the need for additional staff in-store, particularly when we reopen. We roster based on our peaks in foot traffic, so maintaining a level of enforcement is not always easy, so I would think that the centres should be required to play a larger role in enforcing vaccine passports, whether that’s additional security roaming the centres or at the entrances to the centres. Retailers will need centre support on this.” — Antony Hampson, GM, Superdry ANZ
“Should health authorities recommend and governments endorse checking of shoppers’ vaccination status as a condition of entry, enforcement must not be up to retail workers. Enforcement of laws or public health orders is the responsibility of the police and of suitably trained security officers enlisted by retailers.” — Gerard Dwyer, national secretary, SDA
“The key thing right now is vaccination — and Mosaic has been pushing that messaging repeatedly for months. The more people we can encourage to get vaccinated the less issues retailers are going to have so it’s about really backing the government message that it’s safe, effective and our pathway out of lockdowns. There may come a time in the coming weeks and months when enforcement becomes more of a focus than encouragement, but like many businesses we will need to see a government framework on how that will be managed rather than going in too ad-hoc and too early.” — Scott Evans, group CEO and MD, Mosaic Brands
On dealing with aggressive customers
“[Mask mandates] are very challenging to enforce with difficult customers — 99 per cent of customers are very understanding and adhere to the rules and regulations, it is just that small minority who can create unnecessary issues for our staff. Like I mentioned before, the centres will need to ensure there is support in the instance that these issues occur [with vaccine passports].” — Antony Hampson, GM, Superdry ANZ
“As an organisation, we think it would be far more practical for shopping centres to enforce passport requirements at their main doors with professional security personnel. We think it would be the best way to protect the people in that shopping environment and ensure that the Government requirements — vaccinated people gaining access to non-essential retail — are managed effectively. We train our staff in dealing with customer aggression because it’s a fact of life — not just around masks, but around a whole host of things — but it’s not their primary job. And in the context of our business, they’re kids from the age of 17 to 25 years old generally.” — Matt Durbin, CFO, Accent Group
“Customer abuse has been on the rise throughout the pandemic. An SDA survey of 2300 retail workers before the peak shopping season last Christmas found that fully one in five staff (21.60 per cent) reported being coughed or spat on during the depths of the pandemic. Nearly 90 per cent (87.92 per cent) reported being subject to verbal abuse, fully one in four (25.07 per cent) every week. SDA contacts with members suggest this frequency remains the case. Retail staff are essential frontline workers, risking their health and safety to provide the rest of the community with essential goods and services during the pandemic. They do not deserve abuse or threats of physical violence. In its regular engagement with employers, the SDA encourages retailers to keep up their efforts to minimise the likelihood of customer abuse and worse.” — Gerard Dwyer, national secretary, SDA
On reopening stores
“I think we all can see the light at the end of the tunnel now, so we are absolutely preparing to open up again. We haven’t replenished our stores that have been in extended lockdown for some months. In fact, they are housing some of our aged winter inventory which isn’t seasonally appropriate for what looks like a late October, early November opening. There is therefore a lot of work to rotate stock to our outlet network as well as receiving new stock into store to ensure we open up with our newest product ready for summer!” — Antony Hampson, GM, Superdry ANZ
“We will be ready to open, compliant with government requirements whatever they may be, when we’re allowed. For us as a retailer, that’s our primary mandate. We’ve got to get our stores open, we can’t do it until the government says we can, and when they say we can, we have to be ready to do it compliantly. We’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen. There’s no alternative actually.” — Matt Durbin, CFO, Accent Group