Shoppers passing a closed electronics store (Photo: harry_nl, Flickr)

Shop workers reeling from coronavirus hit

Shopping centres are quiet, and no one is lingering. Each day, more stores close. Tens of thousands of workers have lost their jobs.

Veronica Vargas, 20, who used to work for the fashion brand Industrie, is among them. “They had to shut my store down because no customers were coming in,” she says.

“No money was coming into the company, so [there were] few to no shifts for everyone. No money for the company means no money for us [employees]… It’s tough for everyone at the moment.”

While services such as beauty salons, massage parlours and nail bars were ordered to close earlier this week, malls remain open – for the moment. Food courts can only serve takeaways.

Among the latest retail victims of the coronavirus health crisis are Just Jeans, Peter Alexander, Portmans, Jay Jays, Dotti and other brands within the Premier Investments group.

Premier announced on Thursday that its stores – including those in New Zealand, the UK and Ireland – would be closing, with the loss of 9000 jobs.

Ronnie, 23, who works for the shoe chain HYPE, is worried about his future.

“It sucks not having financial security in a time like this. I need the money to pay bills and stuff.”

Ronnie, Sydney shop assistant

Others in the retail industry are more accepting of the situation. “With all of this going on, my health and everyone else’s around me matters,” says Richard, a 28-year-old assistant manager with the Chemist Warehouse chain.

“If a government shutdown is what it takes for things to slowly improve and get back to normal, then so be it.”

Pharmacies are among the “essential” services that are remaining open, along with supermarkets and petrol stations.

For those retail employees still working, many are worried about the risk they confront from daily face-to-face interactions with the public and from handling cash.

In a rare spot of good news, Woolworths announced today (Friday) that it was hiring an extra 20,000 workers to cope with increased demand.