Retail struggle in January 2020

There was some promising news on the economic front last week as retailers across Australia continue to adjust to life without the JobKeeper safety net.

The NAB monthly business survey for March revealed that business conditions rose to a record high, leading some economists to assert that Australia is transitioning smoothly away from government support packages to a private-sector led recovery.

We certainly hope this is the case. Hard-lockdowns are still not quite a thing of the past and the economy will not fully heal until all remaining restrictions are eventually lifted (and that would appear to still be some time away). Interestingly, of all industries surveyed, the biggest gap between business conditions and business confidence was in fact in retail. This illustrates that many retailers remain wary of the road ahead and our sector is easily the least complacent towards the challenges that remain.

In other news, I can confirm that the NRA has made a submission to the ACCC on the proposed amalgamation between eftpos, BPAY and NPP. With Australia (and the world) moving increasingly towards a cashless society the way electronic payment providers operate is of huge significance to all businesses.

Although there is certainly need for reform in this area the NRA does not support the proposed merger. For starters, we believe that for this new entity to work it would require small business to have a seat at the table, something that is absent in the proposed structure. It has been offered for there to be a small business sub-committee but we don’t believe that to be good enough. If the voice of small operators is valued then you shouldn’t need to be creating an extra entity that sits below the main body.

We’re also concerned that the amalgamation would lead to a drop in competition by making it difficult for new players to enter the market. A less competitive environment is almost certain to mean a lack of downward pressure on merchant fees, which again will hurt small business the most. Moreover, there seems to be little appetite to pursue initiatives that make it easier for small businesses to access Least Cost Routing (LCR). Making LCR more accessible is crucial to relieving extra business costs off the shoulders of retailers while also ensuring consumers aren’t slugged with higher product costs. The ACCC is due to make a determination in July and we will keep you all posted.

All the best for the week ahead.