Paul Zahra, the chief executive of the industry peak body the Australian Retailers Association, said the new advice was “incredibly disappointing”.
“While we support the NSW government in their response to keep the community safe, there’s no doubt this directive will have an effect on Boxing Day trade,” Mr Zahra said.
“Boxing Day is the biggest day on the retail calendar, and to have people discouraged from attending shops in the CBD is incredibly disappointing – especially as retailers have worked so hard to ensure their businesses are COVID-safe.”
The retailers’ association had previously predicted shoppers would spend up to $19.5 billion between Boxing Day and January 15.
However, many retailers are expected to offer online discounts as well as in-store markdowns, and many people have begun online shopping for the first time or increased their online shopping this year.
“For people not wanting to head into the CBD, there are still plenty of online options available to snap up a bargain,” Mr Zahra said.
A spokesman for Myer also said people had plenty of options to shop online or in stores outside the Sydney CBD.
“With stores right across greater Sydney, there are plenty of options for customers to shop closer to home on Boxing Day, avoiding the need to come into the CBD,” he said.
He said all stores had “stringent health and safety measures in place” for anyone wanting to visit them in person.
“For those that are wanting to shop from home, all offers are now available [online].”
City of Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore also encouraged people to shop online.
She said Ms Berejiklian’s request for shoppers to avoid the CBD on Boxing Day was “difficult for city businesses, but understandable given the current health concerns”.
“I encourage people to follow NSW Health advice,” Cr Moore said.
“Retailers and hospitality venues have had a difficult year, so it would be worthwhile to see how you can support them through online sales and takeaway, until we tackle the current COVID-19 spike.”
Pallavi Singhal is a data journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald
Megan Gorrey is the Urban Affairs reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald.