Dominique Lamb Message spend

For many NRA members, the start of the school year provides a great sales boost coming straight off the back of the Christmas and New Year trading period.  Recent estimates, including analysis done here at the NRA, shows back-to-school trade is now worth between $1.7 billion and $1.8 billion. A lot of this is driven by the move by many schools to have students bring their own laptop or tablet computers.

It drives home just how important various events on the annual calendar are to pushing retail sales above the baseline on a number of occasions throughout the year.  If your business is one that counts on the back-to-school sales to boost the bottom line at this time, I hope you are experiencing success.

On the flip side, there are other events that can put an unwelcome dent in retail activity and one such event – the Federal Election – is now beginning to loom large in the national psyche. Previous experience is that this can impact on shoppers’ habits, particularly when it comes to discretionary items.

Of course, there’s no good reason that an election in one of the world’s most stable and successful democracies should impact on consumer behaviour.  Regardless of the outcome, Australia will continue to be generally well governed.  We have a professional public service that supports the political class, and ensures either continuity or smooth transition, depending on the voters’ verdict.

What can impact on consumer behaviour is the unnecessary but entirely predictable negative campaigning that each side will conduct in pursuit of victory.  Oppositions invariably talk down the fiscal management of the incumbent, while governments issue dire warnings of economic meltdown in the event of a change.  The election is expected to be held around the end of May. Let’s hope that the two-way scaremongering doesn’t erode shoppers’ confidence too much in the meantime.

As we turn towards the election, the NRA will be urging both sides of politics to respect the verdict of the independent Fair Work Commission in relation to Sunday Penalty Rates under the Modern Retail Award.  We see no value in participating in a lengthy and expensive review process in front of an independent arbiter if politicians are simply going to change the rules when they don’t like a particular decision.

We’ll also be urging both sides to maintain the recent regulation that prevented casual employees from “double dipping” on holiday pay and sick leave. The NRA has always supported the rights of workers to be properly remunerated for their efforts. But we didn’t support a casual worker later being able to claim paid leave, and we don’t want to see that loophole opened again.

Other issues we’ll be watching closely during the election campaign are employment law matters generally, business tax arrangements (including how family trusts are taxed), and any risk of additional regulatory red tape that affects how our members are able to trade.  I’m always happy to hear from you about any issues that you think should be added to our election watching brief.

Have a good week.