Marathon opening hours over Christmas reap rewards for retailers

Bleary-eyed retailers who took part in extended opening hours in the lead-up to Christmas managed to secure increased sales and foot traffic, according to centre operators and the Australian Retailers Association.

The marathon opening times included 33 hours straight at some Westfield centres and 34 hours straight at Chadstone in Victoria.

Westfield extended trading hours at its 39 centres around Australia, including opening three centres for 33 hours straight in the days before Christmas – Parramatta in New South Wales, Chermside in Queensland and Marion in South Australia.

The trend towards longer opening hours continued with retailers in South Australia, who got less of a break than usual with the advent of Boxing Day trade for the first time in the state.

A spokesperson for Westfield told SmartCompany the centres were at their quietest between 2.30am and 5am but used that time to restock items ready for another surge in customers at 6am.

Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman told SmartCompany extended trading hours had resulted in higher sales and foot traffic for many retailers.

“Did it work it well? The answer is yes. The retailers open in those centres say they did very well and traded very strongly all the way through,” he says.

“There were quiet times at 2am or 3am in the morning but it was fairly strong most of the time.”

However, Zimmerman says retailers should have the option of whether they wish to open for extended hours and more uniformity is needed in retail opening hours.

“The ARA has always had a firm view on this, there is an option for retailers to gain extra sales but you should never be forced to do this if it is not profitable and viable,” he says.

“The biggest issue behind extended trading hours has been and will always be a lack of consistency; stores would achieve higher sales by achieving uniformity to trading hours.”

Zimmerman says a lack of consistency leaves shoppers “very confused” and says there is a case for shopping centres to discuss their trading hours in the lead-up to Christmas.

Despite the positive feedback from the extended trading hours the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics covering retail spending in November show sales unexpectedly dropped 0.1%.

This was the first decline in four months and is described by Zimmerman as “very disappointing”.

“I think there are a number of reasons for the figures being as they are; a lack of consumer confidence due to adding carbon tax to the cost of electricity, plus cost of electricity going up itself, and private health insurance has also been hit,” he says.

“We will be looking to government to see some strong economic leadership in light of these figures.”


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