Retail struggle in January 2020

Industrial relations reform was a hot topic as Federal Parliament kicked off last week, for the first time this year.

The Government has put forward an omnibus bill containing a raft of changes, but is facing resistance from the Opposition who have pledged to vote against the legislation.

The NRA does support the Bill and on Monday I appeared before the Education and Employment Legislation Committee who are due to release a report on March 12. Specifically, we support the following key provisions that address the following:

  • The urgent need to clarify the legal status of casual employees following the cases of Workpac Pty Ltd v Skene and Workpac Pty Ltd v Rosatto;
  • Remove outdated restrictions on part-time employment in certain modern awards and industries impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Streamline the process of enterprise bargaining to make the system more accessible; and
  • Make it a criminal offence in the event of deliberate and systematic underpayment or non-payment of entitlements to employees.

Ultimately, the Bill will require the support of several crossbenchers for it to pass the senate and become law. The NRA will continue to monitor the progress of the legislation and provide regular updates. We will also continue to publicly advocate via the media and engage with the Senate crossbench on the need to support the Bill.

There was some very positive news last Friday when the Australian Bureau of Statistics released their retail trade report for December 2020. As expected, the final month of the most tumultuous year in memory saw strong sales results. Consumers being unable to spend the holiday period overseas resulted in a higher than usual level of discretionary spending and led to Australian retail smashing the Christmas sales record.

All up, shoppers across the country splurged more than $55 billion throughout the festive season. We also saw a substantial increase in online spending, with digital sales eclipsing the $5 billion mark across the Christmas period.

A summary of the 2020 spend for the Christmas trade period (November 16 to December 31) and how retail fared compared to 2019 can be found below:

STATE 2019 Spend 2020 Spend % Increase from 2019
NSW $15.9 Billion $17.4 Billion 9%
VIC $13.2 Billion $14.4 Billion 9%
QLD $10 Billion $11.4 Billion 14%
SA $3.2 Billion $3.5 Billion 9%
WA $5.2 Billion $6.1 Billion 17%
TAS $1 Billion $1.1 Billion 10%
NT $419 Million $491 Million 17%
ACT $931 Million $1 billion 7%
TOTAL $49.9 Billion $55.4 Billion 11%


ONLINE SALES 2019 Spend 2020 Spend % Increase from 2019
TOTAL $3.4 Billion $5.4 Billion 59%



Although the above is good news, the retail sector also needs to keep its guard up. Recent lockdowns in Queensland and Western Australia show the economy remains in a volatile state. Until a vaccine is widely administered there will remain a degree of uncertainty and the potential for further lockdowns.

Moreover, government assistance programs such as JobKeeper and the Coronavirus Supplement are due to expire at the end of March which will impact discretionary spending levels.  The bottom line is that retail, and the Australian economy more broadly, is far from out of the woods. This is why the NRA will continue to advocate for measures such as a more flexible labour market, certainty around ongoing business restrictions and any further necessary government assistance packages.

All the best for the week ahead.