Trevor Queen Street

Aussies are spending more than ever before but visiting stores less, according to a snapshot of the country’s retail sector released this week.  The annual Roy Morgan State of the Nation report this year featured a special focus on retail.  It found spending on commodities topped $100 billion for the year to June, with approximately 1.1 billion items changing hands in an average four-week period.  But at the same time, it found we made around 170 million shopping trips fewer than five years ago, despite the growing population.

One difference, of course, was on-line sales – accounting for $37.8 billion over the year.  Around 72 per cent of this money stayed in Australia, going to either local internet-only sites, or the on-line storefronts of established “bricks and mortar” brands.  It’s fascinating reading, and you can see the full results here.

The Federal Government this week released its response to the review of competition policy, conducted by Professor Ian Harper.  Most notably for our sector, the government supported the Review’s call for the removal of all remaining restrictions on retail trade, with Christmas Day, Good Friday and ANZAC Day the only possible exceptions.  The Federal Government’s response recognised that this was an area of state responsibility, but said it was willing to consider payments to states and territories to encourage reform. It said:  “The Government recognises that states and territories are at different stages of reform, and that some states have fewer restrictions than others.  Nonetheless there is scope for further deregulation in all states (the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory no longer regulate retail trading hours).”

It remains the position of the NRA that any changes in those states in which trading hours are currently regulated should be done gradually, and with sufficient notice and lead time that businesses have time to prepare for and adjust to any changes in the retail environment.

Still on the subject of trading hours, following on the recent decision in relation to Boxing Day trading in New South Wales, the NRA this week achieved a win for retailers in regional areas of Queensland.  Due to Christmas Day being on a Friday, and with the Boxing Day public holiday gazetted for Monday the 28th, larger retailers in areas of the state were facing the prospect of being forced to close their doors for four days straight.  This would have resulted in consumers being locked out of major stores and centres at a busy time of the year, and a significant delay to Boxing Day sales.  It would also have been seriously disruptive to supply lines and stock management.

The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission last week heard an urgent application from the NRA for a one-off order to allow trading in regional areas where stores are currently required to remain closed on Sundays and official public holidays.  I’m pleased to say we were partly successful, with the Commission giving approval for stores to trade on the Monday holiday.

And finally this week, I am pleased to report that the NRA has welcomed two new directors to our board, following last week’s AGM.  Kristine Skippington brings a wealth of experience in the important areas of skills, education and workforce development, while Tim Schaafsma adds representation from the furniture and homewares sector.  I am confident both will bring a valuable dimension to the board.