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Retail investor Solomon Lew says shoppers should be screened for virus

Business

Premier Investments boss Solomon Lew has called on shopping centre owners to take more responsibility for coronavirus safety and check visitors on entry.

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The retail kingpin outlined his concerns about the threat to shoppers and workers on the same day Smiggle and Peter Alexander helped strong full-year earnings.

Lew suggested visitors to centres have their temperature checked and show vaccination status on arrival rather than the burden fall to individual stores.

“Who is paying the rent,” he told a media call. “Without the stores, the malls have got nothing.”

“Mall owners have to take more responsibility. They are the ones letting people into the centres.”

Lew said each shop in a centre could not be expected to have staff dedicated to screening visitors.

“Once people are at the mall and checked at the point of entry there is no issue for the store,” he said.

“People will stop visiting malls unless there is safety.”

Premier had previously learned of coronavirus infections at shopping centres through health departments, rather than the centre owners, a dissatisfied Lew said.

Lew has made life difficult for shopping centre owners during the pandemic. He was vocal in negotiating rent reductions after many shops were required to close temporarily due to the virus.

Premier wants a bumper Christmas trade after sales in the first seven weeks of its financial year fell 9.5 per cent due to lockdowns.

It is building up stock in anticipation of a consumer buying spree once the economy opens up on the back of higher vaccination rates, expected later this year.

“We have the appropriate supply chains to support this decision and ensure we are in stock of wanted product,” Lew said.

Premier had a pyjamas-led record full-year profit, after benefiting from the rent reductions.

The company generated a record bottom-line net profit of $271.8 million, up 97.3 per cent, for the year ended July 31.

Pre-tax underlying earnings were up 80 per cent to $351.9 million on the back of a 15.9 per cent jump in global like-for-like sales, mostly led by online activity.

“To have delivered these record results in a very difficult and volatile environment is a truly outstanding achievement,” Lew said.

Sleep and home wear outlet Peter Alexander was a standout with sales rising by $100 million to a record $388 million.

Sales for school kids products retailer Smiggle also rose.

Premier also owns clothing brands Just Jeans, Dotti, Jacqui E, Portmans and Jay Jays.
Premier declared a final dividend for investors of 46 cents per share, taking the payout for the year to 80 cents.

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