The extended lockdown can only best be described as resulting in the watch trade industry remaining “obediently paralysed” with retail outlets also suffering in silence with loss of income hampered further by high monthly expenses as in as staff salaries and rentals.
Other than the moral ground of the lockdown curbing the rise of daily new cases, the Malaysia Watch Trade Association (MWTA) hereby states:
1. Zero demand / Customers: There are no clients going into malls following the extended lockdown.
2. Safety issues: Unlike the first lockdown, the current infection rate is unprecedented — hitting record highs of over 10,000 since July 12, 2012. With the health system running way above full capacity, we don’t want anyone from the watch industry to risk infection. Hence, RiVAC and/or Covid-19 inoculation must be rolled out immediately.
3. Legality: The ongoing discrepancies between ministries are ongoing and there is no clear direction yet. This may result in unnecessary summons/fines so we hope that that the government reconsiders the retailing of watches as being part of essential services.
4. Unity in the fight against Covid-19: A collective joint effort among the watch retailers and other non-watch business communities is key with this collective stance preferably encouraging other trade associations in joining the same cause to seek dialogue with the government for assistance. In this context, the formation of Industrial Unite early 2021 by Datuk Irwin Cheong and Dato David Gurupatham now houses over 100 industry heads.
Preparation points are needed for store re-opening apart from adhering to new norms routine in the number of pax allowed, My Sejahtera scan, temperature check, cleaning and sanitisation work, etc.
1. Protection for service staff: Fellow trade members should prioritise staff’s safety to minimise infection possibilities. As such, they are advised to seek the relevant authorities on daily disinfecting procedures and minimum protective gear for their front line service staff. It is also advisable to check if there is sufficient insurance coverage for the affected staff in the event of occurrence of infection.
2. Partial opening of outlets: The Watch Association recommends that retail chain owners consider only opening part of their chain stores instead of all available stores. This centralised approach can achieve the operational objective without increasing exposure of infection to both employees and customers. This also allow retailers to deploy manpower in rotating shifts to avoid the discontinuation of operations in the event of infection.
3. Maintain and follow up with authorities: For those who have already obtained the licence to operate/ re-open, members will continue to stay updated for any latest update from the authorities which could be the result of the deteriorating Covid-19 situation.
4. Crisis plan in place: To brief and update the retail team on the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) l in the event of an outbreak that includes contact tracing and to put in place a Public Relations media plan to cope with possible public backlash
if Covid-19 infection does occur during the extended lockdown. This should cover scenarios whereby death or serious infection to service staff or customers occur during this pandemic period. In the meantime, Malaysia Watch Trade Association has identified three key areas which can be pursued collectively as an association with respective departments to cope with the extended lockdown which could be lengthened, given the high Covid-19 infection rates.
Three area of concerns include:
1. Manpower support
Continuity to work with fellow associations in seeking manpower support grant which has helped fellow retailers to safeguard the jobs of fellow watch members.
2. Loan moratorium: Malaysia Watch Trade Association will work with other trade associations to push the restoration of loan moratorium to allow retailers to cope with immediate cash flow issues.
3. Covid-19 temporary act: The Malaysia Watch Trade Association will monitor the Covid-19 Temporary Act which examines the leasing contract with malls. This might assist fellow retailers to exit from their prevailing contracts should the situation increasingly deteriorate.