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Peak retail body, the National Retail Association (NRA) and digital agency, Xugar, are calling for a digital assistance package of $6,000 to help small businesses get online.

The $6,000 package could come in the form of a loan or reduced taxable income for SMEs, with one criteria being that it must be spent on improving the business’ digital presence with the view to boost revenue.

Once deemed eligible for the $6,000 package, businesses could nominate a digital partner to assist with the digital transformation. Only digital agencies with a proven track record of improving clients’ ROI would be able to take part in the scheme.

With Australia Post recently announcing that online shopping has increased by 80% compared to last year, Sagar Sethi of Xugar said that digital purchasing has made a quantum leap under lockdown and is now the new normal so that’s where targeted government assistance needs to go. He believes the $6,000 digital transformation package for small businesses would be quite literally the difference between ‘make or break’ for many Australian businesses.

“We know that foot traffic is down under COVID, but we also know that digital selling has gone through the roof as people shop from home. What a digital transformation package would do is help connect local businesses with local consumers, and even reach new customers further afield.

“We’re proposing the government provide a $6,000 loan which is enough to help businesses establish an ecommerce platform. Our view is it’s better to support small business and the jobs they provide upstream, rather than allowing those businesses to fail and seeing them join the ranks of the unemployed. By digitising their businesses not only can Australian small businesses survive, they can thrive.”

This sentiment is also supported by Dominique Lamb, CEO of the NRA, who said, “Technological evolution has resulted in more and more retailers embracing ecommerce initiatives to generate revenue”.

She added: “Business lockdowns due to COVID-19 have further fueled this growing trend, with many retailers relying on digital sales to negate lost revenue from trading restrictions. The NRA would like to see governments at all levels invest in digital upskilling for small businesses. Straightforward measures to achieve this include interest-free loans, tax write-offs or training funding.”

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