Trevor Queen Street

The retail trade figures for January, released today, showed a steady start to the year with an increase in turnover 0.3 per cent for the month, seasonally adjusted, and a 4.0 increase compared with January last year.

This steady, if not spectacular, growth is welcome as we see consumer sentiment stabilising and spending patterns becoming somewhat more reliable.

However retailers remain constrained by the workplace relations regime, and particularly the hefty double time penalty rates that apply on Sundays and public holidays. The Productivity Commission recognised that this was holding back jobs growth in retail, and recommended a more realistic time and a half for all standard weekend work. This reform would give us a much-needed kick along, allowing us to sharpen prices in order to compete with on-line sales and to boost local spending.

We will continue to pursue up to the Federal Election and beyond. Click here to see our full analysis of the ABS results.

Next Tuesday, March 8, is International Women’s Day. As you’d know, retail has historically attracted a high proportion of women for many reasons, including flexibility to balance part-time/casual hours with family commitments, or the ability to step off the career ladder for a time to have children and step back on at a later date.

As such, it is also an industry which too often feels the unfortunate impacts of family violence. This is a problem that significantly impacts the capacity of victims to become financially independent and secure, and one we must all work together to address.

We commend wholeheartedly the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) for taking a stand and raising the profile of this important issue. However their proposal to create a separate and additional pool of leave is a blunt and inflexible response that does not reflect the complex nature of how family violence affects victims in the workplace over the longer term.

The National Retail Association is looking to play an important supporting role in a multi-faceted response, and are taking steps to partner with state and federal governments to help retailers build workplaces that are supportive to victims of domestic and family violence. We believe the retail sector is in a unique position to provide leadership on this important issue.

We are also hoping to work more closely with organisations such as the Luke Batty Foundation and its Never Alone campaign, to ensure employers and their staff know how to act with greatest empathy and understanding, for those who need it most.

From discussions with our members, it is evident that many retailers want to be proactive in this space and be part of an integrated response to domestic violence. For more information on how your business can assist in reducing the prevalence of violence against women, contact the NRA’s HR and legal team on 1800 RETAIL (738 245).