Westfield shuts down 129 shops
Westfield's parent company has closed dozens of shops - including Rivers, Noni B, Katies, Millers and Crossroads - as a nasty rent spat escalates.
Scentre Group, the parent company of the Westfield chain, made the call to temporarily lock down stores owned by Mosaic Brands, leaving more than 400 jobs on the line.
The dispute arose after Mosaic and several other brands either refused to pay rent or only paid a lower rate while COVID-19 lockdowns were in place.
Mosaic chairman Richard Facioni condemned the landlord's decision to halt trading in the current retail climate.
"These actions are extremely disappointing, given the current environment, and difficult to comprehend in the context of a relationship that spans close to 40 years," he said in a statement sent to news.com.au.
"Mosaic continues to conduct rental negotiations in good faith with all landlords, including Scentre Group, in the spirit of sharing the burden of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, consistent with Government recommendations."
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Mosaic Brands is Australia's leading specialty fashion retail group, with the Millers, W.Lane, Noni B, Rivers, Katies, Autograph, Rockmans, Crossroads and beme brands in its network of 1332 Australian stores and with 6800 employees on the books.
It is understood affected team members will be redeployed elsewhere until the issue is resolved and are receiving support from the company.
However, Mosaic isn't the only high-profile retailer to clash with landlords over rent during the pandemic.
Earlier this year, billionaire Solomon Lew refused to pay rent for his Premier Investment shops - including Just Jeans, Portmans and Smiggle - after they were voluntarily shut during the nationwide lockdown back in March.
Retailer Accent Group also refused to pay rent during the crisis, while Red Rooster's parent company Craveable Brands also allegedly contacted a Melbourne landlord to claim it would be cutting the rent for April due to the virus.
Fast food billionaire Jack Cowin - the owner of Burger King's Australian franchise, Hungry Jack's - also followed suit in April by embarking on a three-month rent strike.
"We propose to defer gross rent for three months, or until the restrictions are lifted and our company's trading patterns show signs of returning to normal," Mr Cowin wrote in a letter sent to landlords, according to the West Australian.
News.com.au contacted Scentre Group for comment.
Originally published as Westfield shuts down 129 shops