Retail boss Solomon Lew demands mandatory jabs for shoppers

James HallNCA NewsWire
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Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: News Corp Australia

Billionaire retail tsar Solomon Lew has called for shopping precincts to reject unvaccinated consumers and install health checks at entrances, declaring “people will stop visiting malls unless there is safety”.

The sector heavyweight, who operates a swath of leading chains as chairman of Premier Investments including Peter Alexander, Just Jeans, Dotti, Smiggle and Portmans, stressed shopping centre operators had an “absolute responsibility” to ensure workers and consumers were safe from Covid-19 outbreaks.

“We need to protect our staff and we need to protect our customers,” Mr Lew told investors during a profit update on Thursday.

“You need to make it a safe place to visit. Families are coming. Mum, dad, the kids, the grandparents coming into the big seasonal shopping time.”

New CEO of Solomon Lew
Camera IconSolomon Lew with Premier Retail chief executive Richard Murray. Aaron Francis/The Australian Credit: News Corp Australia

The retail boss said his sprawling empire saw mandatory vaccine as a “strategic” business move.

“It’s really for government to get together with the mall owners and say ‘listen here fellas, this is how it’s going to work’,” the businessman said.

It was incumbent on shopping centre operators to provide appropriate protocols and infrastructure, Mr Lew said, insisting he wouldn’t “go and sit in a food court without knowing that I’m in a safe place”.

“People have to be vaccinated and people have to be temperature checked,” he said.

“Once they’re in the mall and they’re checked at the point of entry, then there’s no issue for the store as such because otherwise every store is going to have to have muscle out the front taking temperature checks, putting them into a queue and it’s going to be very inconvenient.

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

Camera IconMr Lew said mandatory vaccines was a crucial “strategic” move to ensure the safety of shoppers and staff. NCA NewsWire / Jono Searle Credit: News Corp Australia

The Premier Investments chair has been a vocal in criticising major operators such as Westfield throughout the pandemic, declaring last year the mall owner was playing “roulette” with the lives of shoppers and staff.

On Thursday, he again challenged shopping centres to protect consumers.

“Who’s paying the rent? Without the stores, the malls have got nothing,” he said.

“I think you’ll recall very early, April or May of last year, it was reported that malls had Covid but we weren’t being advised by the mall owners, we were being advised by the health department.

“The mall owners have to take more responsibility. They’re the ones who are letting the people into the centres.

“So, at the entry point there needs to be a check. They have to be safe.”

But the sector’s peak body said it was up to the individual stores to mandate vaccine requirements and health checks given the essential services included in complexes, including medical centres, pharmacies and supermarkets.

Due to the variety of services, Shopping Centre Council of Australia director Angus Nardi said a blanket rule would leave many unable to receive their vaccine or receive treatments when ill.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have continued to have detailed discussions with governments, public health experts, and compliance agencies to ensure we are meeting and exceeding expectations for covid safety across our centres,” he said in a statement provided to NCA NewsWire.

“The industry is well prepared to welcome the community back to shopping centres as lockdowns lift and shoppers and retailers gear up for the Christmas season.”

Originally published as Retail boss Solomon Lew demands mandatory jabs for shoppers

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