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.
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