JOBKEEPER kept the Cotton On Group going during 2020 and its chief executive officer says companies will have to adapt and respond quickly for the rest of 2021 when the wage subsidy ends.
The group, which employs about 9,500 people in Australia, qualified for the fortnightly payments introduced by the Coalition as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at the distribution centre in Avalon on Monday this week, Cotton On Group chief executive officer Peter Johnson said having access to JobKeeper was a confidence booster for not only Cotton On Group and its future planning but also its customers over the past 12 months.
“We had periods where we had five stores in our group that were open; we closed almost 1,300 stores at one point in time,” Mr Johnson said.
“In Australia, we had all of our 650 stores closed at one point in time.
“So to have the support of the federal government through that period was incredible, we couldn’t be any more appreciative of the way they responded, the speed they responded, the openness about how they communicated through that period.”
He said Cotton Group was “still feeling conservative but optimistic around the next 12 months” following the end of JobKeeper payments in about two months.
“Business as usual is what 2020 was, it was that you have to adapt, and you have to respond and you have to do it really quickly,” Mr Johnson said.
“You can’t set long-term plans and you hope things will go your way, it won’t.
“So, ‘business as usual’ means that we’ll continue to run this business like we did through 2020, which is respond, adapt and adjust.”
JobKeeper is set to end on March 28 and the federal Coalition has consistently emphasised the temporary nature of the subsidy – a point repeated by federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg at Avalon on Monday – despite some calls for JobKeeper to continue.
“Well, you’ve seen the same reports that I have, where some businesses have asked for an extension, others, as we’ve heard from today, are seeing jobs coming back, and are seeing the customers coming back,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“But my job, as the Treasurer, is to put in place an economic plan which will create jobs, and which will save jobs, and which will get Australia to the other side of this crisis.
“And our economic plan is working, and you can see that in a whole range of numbers that have come out about the economy in recent months.”
Mr Frydenberg said $77 billion was “already out the door” on JobKeeper and the scheme supported some 3.6 million Australian workers in about one million businesses at its peak, but there were two million fewer workers and 450,000 fewer businesses on JobKeeper in October compared to September.
He said the Morrison Government had several other support measures in place, including JobMaker, tax cuts, infrastructure investments and investment incentives.