CEO Dominique Lamb

Consumer confidence is up (although not expected to translate into any giant spending sprees anytime soon), and people are feeling more positive about the outlook for the economy and the jobs market, according to the Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer sentiment index.

Whether measured by Westpac or ANZ, consumer sentiment is at its highest level in more than four years. Retail sales have risen in both the past two months (including November’s 1.2 per cent – the biggest since January 2013).

But according to the Commonwealth Bank’s latest Business Sales Indicator (BSI), this recovery may not have extended as strongly into December as we’d hoped – its data suggests retail and clothing may have actually fallen by 0.4 per cent in trend terms, making it the weakest result in more than six years.

In a nutshell – we may need to be prepared that when the official Australian Bureau of Statistics report for December lands early next month, there’s a chance it may not be as stellar as we’d hoped.

However, Commonwealth’s BSI’s report of a 0.4 per cent increase in trend terms for spending overall, is still a strong indicator of strengthening consumer confidence.

With the Easter trading period coming up (yes, Hot Cross Buns and Cadbury Crème Eggs are the perfect way to end your post-Christmas detox!), retailers in several different parts of the country are set to benefit from more sensible trading hours over the long weekend.

The NRA has fought and won a considerable number of trading hours cases for cities and regional areas, however there’s been a media storm in a teacup in Queensland this week, after we picked up a small mistake in the Government’s amendments to the Trading (Allowable Hours) Act that inadvertently meant that major stores in some regional areas would have been forced to close for four days straight over the long weekend.

This highlights the complicated nature of Queensland’s trading hours regime, particularly when contrasted with that of states like New South Wales.  The Palaszczuk Government has done some great work with the Mickel Review to try and simplify it, but this effort was unfortunately stymied by the Opposition and the cross bench in the previous Parliament.

I’d like to praise Minister Grace Grace for her swift moves to rectify the mistake in time for the coming Easter trading period.

Nationally, the NRA is continuing to represent the interests of its members and is challenging applications by the unions to dramatically expand flexible work provisions which, if successful, would allow employees to dictate the terms and conditions of their employment in the Family Friendly Working Arrangements Case.

The debate regarding casual overtime rates also remains ongoing, and we will remain in the thick of it, in order to achieve the best deal for our members.