Retailers hold onto cash amid global pandemic

While the full economic implications of COVID-19 and the public health measures being implemented to contain it are still unknown, businesses are already acting to reduce costs and hold onto cash.

On Monday, Briscoe Group, which owns Briscoes Homeware, Living & Giving and Rebel Sport, cancelled its final dividend, which had been scheduled for March 31, saying it was in the best interests of the company.

“While the cancellation of the recent dividend will be disappointing for shareholders, I am totally supportive and convinced it is in the best interests of the Group to ensure we protect the company both in the short-term and for the future,” said Briscoe Group’s MD Rod Duke.

Like other non-essential businesses in New Zealand, Briscoe Group’s retail chains will be forced to close their doors for the next four weeks, as the Government implements a near-total lockdown in an effort to eradicate COVID-19.

Duke it was impossible to forecast the extent of the impact from these unprecedented events.

“While this may not be a long-term market change, it still presents the most disruptive force to impact New Zealand retail – perhaps ever,” he said.

Australian jewellery chain Michael Hill also decided to delay the payout of its interim dividend, pushing it from March 13 to September 30.

The retailer, which has 300 stores in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, has suspended its entire store network for an indefinite period.

Brian Walker, CEO and founder of Retail Doctor Group, said retailers will need to prioritise cashflow above all else to get through the current crisis.

“One thing I’ve noticed straightaway is the liquidity of many of these businesses,” he told Inside Retail. “They can survive one month of [sales] being 30 per cent down, maybe two or three, and then they don’t have a business.”

Retailers may also need to start discounting if that’s what it takes to generate sales.

“In this survival period, it’s all about having cash. Cash is king,” Walker said.


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