Australian online retailers lobby for inclusion on government council

A national body representing online retailers is pushing for a seat on the government-chaired Retail Council of Australia, saying the current line-up doesn’t best represent the industry’s concerns.

Currently, the council is composed mainly of representative bodies such as the Australian Retailers Association, the Council of Small Businesses of Australia and the Shopping Centre Council of Australia, but the only organisation specifically representing the interests of online retailers is auctions group eBay.

The council was established in late 2011 and is chaired by Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury and is designed so the industry can voice its concerns to parliament.

The National Online Retailers Association says the growing amount of activity in the online retail space demands the industry provide a voice for ecommerce businesses.

Chief executive of NORA, Paul Greenberg, told SmartCompany he has written to Bradbury asking for NORA to be included on the council.

“When the retail council was formed there was a reach out the NORA, but at the time we weren’t ready.”

“NORA was an idea, but not yet an association. In the absence of NORA, the council considered who they could get to represent the new retail, and to Bradbury’s credit, at the time he made the correct call and he let eBay step in,” he says.

Bradbury said in a statement the council allowed the Australian government to engage with the sector and to discuss issues which arose from a report into the industry by the Productivity Commission inquiry.

“Together, these members will create a diverse and dynamic group united by their common commitment to building and maintaining a strong retail sector in Australia and will bring their own particular knowledge, experience and expertise to the table to inform the Council’s discussions,” he said.

The growing number of deals in the online space bolsters the argument for more formal representation. Just today, auction site GraysOnline snapped up department store Oo.com.au.

Greenberg says he’s been in discussions with a variety of industry bodies and consumers and does not want NORA to be a divisive organisation.

“I’m in conversation with everyone from the big end to the small end of town – clicks and bricks and anyone who is ready to commit to a prize bigger than their own brand -the total tapestry of Australian retailers.

“The penny is starting to drop that while there has been some mud-slinging between retailers here, its overseas retailers taking consumer spend out of our economy. That is the conversation we need to be having,” he says.

Greenberg says it’s important for NORA to be on the council to represent the needs of online retailers and the retail sector as a whole.

“We want to bridge the conversation between the old and the new retailer. We see now that retailers have got into a bad habit of thinking by channel, when consumers don’t think in this way,” he says.

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