Retail closures that plagued the Australian market prior to coronavirus are set to continue as the pandemic eases, with retail giant Target announcing the closure of 75 stores nationwide within the next year.
A further 92 stores will be converted to Kmart outlets, according Target owner Wesfarmer's report to the ASX on Friday.
The Target store on Charles Street will be spared closure, with the Devonport store the only one in Tasmania set to suffer that fate.
A Target spokesperson said all team members in Target stores scheduled for conversions to Kmart would be offered the opportunity to join the Kmart team.
"For other affected Target team members, we will work with them to identify and offer other redeployment opportunities in Kmart, Catch, Bunnings and Officeworks as these businesses continue to grow," the spokesperson said.
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University of Tasmania retail expert Dr Louise Grimmer said preliminary ABS data for April revealed retail sales for Australia fell by $24 billion, 9.4 per cent lower than 2019 and the largest fall in monthly retail figures ever recorded.
She said it came off the highest ever retail figures in March which were attributed to "panic buying and hoarding".
"This is a story of winners and losers," she said.
"The losers include fashion and footwear retailers, personal accessories, supermarket and grocery store products including non-perishable goods, fruit and vegetables and cleaning products. Spending on takeaway food, in cafes and restaurants also suffered significantly.
"The winners include retailers selling alcohol, recreational goods such as games and toys, homewares and appliances and DIY and gardening products."
Dr Grimmer said while many local businesses had struggled throughout the pandemic, many smaller retailers had been reporting a higher turnover.
"These are the nimble and agile businesses that have been able to pivot to online selling quickly and effectively and used their social media accounts as well as email to connect with loyal customers and have also opened up new markets for their goods and services," she said.
However, Dr Grimmer added that many businesses that didn't adapt now face permanent closure.
"Many smaller retailers had not invested in digital tools or social media marketing and having to close their stores during the lockdown meant that they didn't already have that strong online foundation to enable their customers to remain connected and to keep purchasing from the business," she said.
"Ongoing research prior to the pandemic showed that there were still significant numbers of small businesses that were not trading online and they have had to very quickly pivot by setting up websites, getting really active on social media and it is the digital platforms that have enabled many of them to survive."
The importance for local businesses such as cafes and restaurants has been recognised by consumers during the pandemic, according to Dr Grimmer, who believes the trend will continue going forward.