Dominique Lamb CEO National Retail Association

Last week’s retail trade data may not have been the most high-profile activity performed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in recent months.  That honour clearly went to the national Census.  But in terms of outcomes, this exercise was almost as disappointing!

The ABS reported that retail trade flatlined in July – in official terms, turnover seasonally changed by 0.0 per cent, seasonally adjusted, compared with June.

I know that won’t come as a great surprise to many of the members and retailers I speak with across Australia on a daily basis.  The regular feedback I’ve been receiving is that conditions continue to be difficult, and that is borne out by these numbers (which followed a rise of just 0.1 per cent in June.

If we dig into the numbers a little, we see that were increases in food retailing (0.7 per cent), cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services (1.2 per cent), other retailing (0.2 per cent) and clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (0.3 per cent). But these were offset by falls in department store trading (-6.2 per cent) and household goods retailing (-0.7 per cent).

Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania all recorded sound growth (0.5 per cent for the month) with the Northern Territory (0.4 per cent), Western Australia (0.3 per cent), and the Australian Capital Territory (1.2 per cent) also growing.  The two largest states, however, went backwards – Victoria by 0.6 per cent and New South Wales by 0.2 per cent.

It is to be hoped that the interest rate cut announced in early August by the Reserve Bank will give consumers some additional confidence and cash, to hopefully put a bounce in next month’s numbers.

Last week also saw another State Government – this time Queensland – blindside businesses with a new public holiday proposal.  Queensland is proposing gazetting new holidays on Easter Sunday and Christmas Eve.  The NRA is always willing to talk with Governments to try to find some middle ground, particularly in an environment where governments tend to do what they want to do anyway.  We’ve seen this in Victoria in the last year or so.

Our approach in Queensland has been to join the public holiday discussion to the need for reform of the state’s antiquated trading hours laws.  While we know additional public holidays will simply lead to reduced hours for many staff and more costs for business owners, these messages seem to fall on deaf ears.  We are hopeful that we will at least be able to negotiate a better outcome for retailers in relation to trading hours, if the new holiday proposal is pushed through.  I’ll keep you informed.

On a more exciting note, we are thrilled to announce that Angela Szczepanski has commenced with us this week. Angela has over 13 years’ experience in industrial relations and has worked for a number of employer associations, private enterprises as in house counsel and for the Queensland State Government. Angela has a wealth of experience in work health and safety, workers compensation, industrial action and litigation within the Fair Work Commission and the Federal Circuit Court. Please join me in welcoming Angela to NRA Legal and  to the NRA industrial relations team.

Additionally, we would also like to announce the commencement of Ebony Johnson who is set to take on the role of Marketing Manager at the NRA. Ebony comes to us with a wealth of marketing and event experience and was previously the group marketing manager for a large boutique resort chain. Ebony has a wealth of experience in retail, hospitality and customer service centric industries. If you are attending Rewards for Excellence and Young Retailer of the year make sure you pop by and have a chat to Ebony.

Have a good week.

Dominique Lamb, CEO