Cue shuts Sydney stores during Covid lockdown

One of Australia’s top retail bosses is pleading with his rivals to shut down their stores as Sydney endures its third week of Covid lockdown.Justin Levis is the CEO of women’s fashion brands Cue, Veronika Maine and Dion Lee, and he shut down all those stores in Greater Sydney the moment lockdown was announced at the end of last month.Now he’s urging his direct competitors to do the same.“I think it’s irresponsible to stay open,” the beleaguered chief executive told“It’d be morally wrong.”Mr Levis made the tough decision on June 26 to stand down most of his staff in almost 50 stores across Greater Sydney.“When I heard the initial lockdown was coming into effect, I thought I had to close my stores. I’m not an essential service,” he explained.RELATED: Cafe’s mask sign sparks controversyRELATED: Small business’s desperate plea: ‘On our absolute knees’“Ironically … what’s good at eradicating the virus is good for my business,” Mr Levis continued.“The quicker you can eradicate (the virus), the quicker my business is up and running.”That ultimately led to his decision to put a pause on his stores.The government “weren’t strong enough in what they were saying quickly enough,” he added.“I didn’t want people travelling to my stores, possibly 100 people a day, infecting my staff.“Other companies took a different approach. We’re now in the unfortunate situation where it spread further.”All Cue Clothing Co’s stores in NSW are shut except for two that are outside the Greater Sydney zone, in Albury and Wagga Wagga.Cue stores within Myer also remain open.RELATED: ATO chasing $284m in Covid fraudDespite the fact Greater Sydney residents are only supposed to leave home for essential reasons, fashion outlets, flower shops and even lingerie stores remain open.Health authorities have argued that it’s okay for them to stay open as retail is a “lower risk setting” than other places.However, retail stores including Bunnings and Officeworks, Supercheap Auto, JB Hi-Fi and Beds R Us have been named as NSW exposure sites in the last two weeks.Mr Levis said by staying open, companies were “shooting themselves in the foot”.“You might make a little bit of money by staying open, but … they (health officials) are calling out retail stores.“Now that store is shut (because of a Covid outbreak), the staff have to quarantine for two weeks, you have to pay for fumigation, it’s actually worse for your business.”On Thursday, NSW recorded 65 locally-acquired cases, a day after the lockdown was extended for another two weeks.The decision to shut up shop is a huge blow to Cue Clothing Co, with NSW pulling in 30 per cent of profits, and 70 per cent of product manufacturing done in Sydney for the company.However, Mr Levis said if his stores had remained open, sales would be down by at least 75 per cent anyway – which is why he’s baffled that his competitors think it’s worth it.“When you look at it, you’re not going to buy business attire (during lockdown),” he said.“More like pyjamas”, which Cue doesn’t sell.His company has pivoted to accommodate for lockdown, by switching to online sales and even running stylist sessions virtually between staff and customers.Cue is offering contactless delivery and enabling customers to shop using virtual appointments.Although online sales are 10 per cent higher than normal, Mr Levis said this in no way makes up for lost revenue.“By no way does that make up for my stores being shut,” he said. “I’ve got all these costs mounting up, and it’s difficult to make it work.”He’s hoping the government issues clearer directions on what non-essential businesses should do in the coming weeks.

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