Retailers appeal for 6-month rental rebate as Covid-19 hits sales

Retailers say shoppers are beginning to stay away from malls because of the Covid-19 outbreak.

PETALING JAYA: A group of retailer associations is appealing to shopping malls and owners of shophouses to give tenants a six-month rental rebate of up to 50% in light of the Covid-19 outbreak, which they say has greatly affected business.

In a joint statement, they said the outbreak has not only affected the tourism industry but has led to shoppers shying away from malls.

They called for landlords to be “socially responsible” by helping them “protect jobs and stir domestic consumption for the greater good of the Malaysia economy” because rental makes up a significant proportion of operational costs.

They also urged for a good partnership between landlord and tenants.

“Many of our members have reported that sales have dropped by as high as 50% with some expecting revenue to further drop by more than 80% over the next three months.

“We are asking for help to ride through this very difficult time,” they said, adding that they were not seeking a long-term rental rebate or cut.

They said a similar initiative had been implemented in Hong Kong and Singapore.

The retailers said that while there were no closures yet, many food and beverage outlets were quite empty “as shoppers avoid malls”.

The statement was signed by the Malaysia Retailers Association (MRA), Malaysia Retail Chain Association (MRCA), Bumiputra Retailers Organisation (BRO), Asean Retail-Chains & Franchise Federation (ARFF) and Branding Association of Malaysia (BAM).

It said retail outlets also had to incur additional costs by hiring more cleaners to wipe down public areas, administration staff to take temperature, and providing more hand sanitisers at strategic locations.

Several industries have been affected by the outbreak – which has already claimed over 1,700 lives – notably the tourism sector.

Bank Negara Malaysia recently said the outbreak will affect growth for the first quarter of 2020.

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad will announce an economic stimulus package on Feb 27 aimed at mitigating the adverse external economic impact, while several banks have allowed their clients affected by Covid-19 to defer their loan repayments.