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It’s time for uniformity on trading hours

February 15, 2017

Relaxing trading hours is an issue we’ve fought long and hard for, and will continue to fight for. Restrictive rules and regulations in some parts of Australia are continuing to add to the red tape and financial burdens on business owners, but are also preventing them from catering to consumer demand.

The Productivity Commission has been arguing since 2011 that trading hours be deregulated in all states, including public holidays, as a long-term objective, and that it should be up to retailers to decide when they want to open their doors. After all, when you’re running a retail business, there’s no point opening unless there’s consumer demand. And no retailer in their right mind would consider slamming the doors shut when there are customers ready, willing and able to shop?

Sounds logical, right? Wrong. Consumer demand is still not the determining factor behind when many retailers open their doors, because in many parts of Australia, complex regulation is still dictating who can open, and when. 

While we don’t support full deregulation, we have been fighting long and hard on reducing these red tape burdens, and relaxing outdated trading hours regulations right across the country, to allow our members’ businesses to compete in an ever-changing environment.

In some states, this is now the case, but in others, there is still a patchwork approach, with various confusing combinations of regulated and deregulated hours.

In West Australia and South Australia for instance, we are still seeing legislation that discriminates between retailers, based on location, the products sold, number of employees etc., which allows some stores to trade while others cannot.

Take a boat trip over to WA’s Rottnest Island however, and you’ll find retailers with their doors open anytime they feel like.

New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Victoria, ACT and Tasmania are now almost entirely unregulated and able to determine how best to service their customers’ needs, and in NSW, a two-year trial into unrestricted Boxing Day trade has wrapped up successfully, and is now going to be implemented on a permanent basis. But while I saw first-hand the crazy scenes in Pitt St Mall when shops opened their doors at 5am this Boxing Day just gone, it was a very different scene in Adelaide, as shoppers in Rundle St Mall lined up in the heat, waiting very impatiently for the 11am opening time to grab a bargain.

In February, the Queensland Government committed to implementing most of the recommendations of the independent Mickel Review into the state’s trading hours, with butchers now able to trade without restriction, and hardware stores able to open from 6am – moves we’re very pleased to see. 

In a changing environment, it’s essential that retailers are able to open their doors when their consumers want to shop, rather than according to outdated legislation that is no longer relevant to a modern society.

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