Qld retail inquiry – industry demands greater consumer choice and removal of inconsistencies

The Queensland Parliament’s Education, Employment and Training Committee is undertaking an inquiry into retail trading hours which could lead to improved consumer choice and reduced inconsistencies, but will probably end up recommending minimal changes, I fear. Hopefully, it will at least support major retailers opening on Sundays in regional centres such as Mount Isa.

I don’t have a lot of hope the Parliamentary Committee will advocate removing all the silly inconsistencies which frustrate consumers and force people to travel further than they otherwise would. Why, for instance, do the closest supermarkets to me, Woolies at Spring Hill and Macarthur Central, close at 6pm on Sunday, but the Coles at Merthyr Rd is open to 9pm and Harris Farm Markets at West End is open to 10pm on a Sunday?  

The Committee is not due to report until late January next year, but public submissions have now been published on its website. Industry bodies such as CCIQ, Commerce North West, and the National Retail Association are rightly supporting further deregulation. CCIQ has identified some major problems with current regulations in its submission. For instance, the side of a road your business is on can have major implications for your trading hours and turnover due to regulation-defined boundaries:

Several chambers consulted discussed irritation in trading hour discrepancies along boundaries of differing areas. This has improved a great deal as the number of areas has shrunk significantly since 2016 however, businesses are still experiencing difficulties. For example, shops on the side of a road may be considered a ‘tourist area’ and able to trade on a Sunday, whilst a shop on the other side may be categorised as ‘all other areas’ and not be able to open. This results in all foot traffic being diverted to areas that can open and creates market opportunities for shops nearby to trade.

Here’s another good point from CCIQ:

Frustrations surrounding retail trading hours in Queensland is common during the Christmas and New Year period. It is necessary that non-exempt stores are able to trade freely to leverage periods of peak economic demand as they see fit. This is also relevant to supporting the economy recovery of business in the present COVID-19 climate where many retailers are facing ongoing disruptions and trading turbulence as a result of forced closures, the end of stimulus support, and ongoing public health restrictions. 

Certainly the state government has made things difficult for many retail businesses since March last year, with lockdowns and border closures, so it should arguably do all it can to reduce the regulatory burden from here on. 

On the frustrations caused by major retailers not opening on Sundays in some regional centres such as Mount Isa, Commerce North West’s submission has some choice quotes from the organisation’s members:

“It’s not just residents who benefit but also our many travellers. So many tourists stay on weekends, lost trade because nothing is opened…”  

“get out of the dark ages and catch up with rest of the world, tourists coming here are astonished that shops are closed Sundays.”  

“Transient Aussie travellers are caught out when traveling through places like Mount Isa when shops are not open.” 

Regular QEW reader Andrew Aschman has also made a great submission to the inquiry. Andrew wrote:

The suitability  of  permitted  hours  that  currently  stand  does  not reflect the need  of  the modern-day  consumer,  nor  to  the expansion  of  the  retail sector.  We  live  in  a 7-day  economy  in  which a progressive  amount  of industry  operates  24  hours  a  day.  Due  these  circumstances  people  that  work in  these  industries  have limited  time  to  buy  essential  goods  at competitive  prices.  Allowing  retail  to trade unrestricted  to  reflect the need  of  the  consumer  market,  can  help  alleviate  this  current  problem.

 As  well  as  providing  better  convenience  and  access  to  bricks  and  mortar stores,  deregulation of retail  can  improve  logistics  in  the online market.  This  can  provide  the  ability  for supermarkets  and other  retail  to  pack  and  deliver  online  orders  for  click  and  collect  at  lockers  and  pick  up  points,  as  well as  for  home delivery  later  into  the evening  7  days  a  week.

Finally, one benefit of deregulating trading hours is that it would reduce, possibly eliminate, a major function of the generously remunerated Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (i.e. its role “setting permitted hours outside the prescribed hours” as the Parliamentary website describes it), hopefully leading to some budgetary savings.

Queensland Parliament House, corner of George and Alice Streets, Brisbane.

Please feel free to comment below. Alternatively, you can email comments, questions, suggestions, or hot tips to contact@queenslandeconomywatch.com. I also post from time-to-time on my business website adepteconomics.com.au, so please consider subscribing to updates there (Get in touch). Also please check out my Economics Explored podcast, which has a new episode each week.

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2 Responses to Qld retail inquiry – industry demands greater consumer choice and removal of inconsistencies

  1. Visitor says:

    Hello Gene,
    If you tuned into the parliamentary committee meetings, the answer is that Coles New Farm is located in a … wait for it … ‘tourist zone’ similar to the gold coast etc. So it can stay open. Nothing to see in Spring Hill… hence the earlier close.

    Why does Victoria lead Australia in this area? Because on one man’s dogged determination to trade on Sunday. Frank Penhalluriack https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Penhalluriack

    This story is not well known, the guy deserves to be recognised.

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