SME groups have moved quickly to reject moves by Wesfarmers chief executive Richard Goyder to put shopping hour deregulation back on the agenda in Western Australia.
Goyder, who is currently in the process of taking control of the Coles supermarket chain, reportedly plans to begin lobbying the WA Government to take another look at business hour deregulation.
Although some retail SMEs and businesses in key tourism precincts already work under non-standard trading hours, there are no large 24-hour supermarkets in WA. State Government moves to introduce deregulation laws in 2005 where stymied when a referendum overwhelmingly rejected any change.
Council of Small Business of Australia chairman Bob Stanton, who also owns and runs a mini-mart in Perth, says deregulation would cause significant harm to SMEs in WA.
“This is really just about the multinational supermarkets wanting to increase their market share in a state where independents are very strong. They would do as they did in other states like Melbourne – the major supermarkets had total deregulation and the Coles and Woollies moved to 24 hours a day until the surrounding small businesses went out of business,” Stanton says.
But, Stanton says, there may be an argument that hours in the tourism precincts of Perth CBD, Fremantle and Rockingham could be further deregulated.
“We do need a more vibrant city than we’ve got – it is Dullsville in there sometimes. The opening of the new Mandurah railway line will mean more people accessing the city, so there is room for change there.”
Another SME representative highly critical of Goyder’s move to re-open the issue is John Cummings, chairman of the National Association of Retail Grocers and the owner of an IGA in suburban Perth.
“We have surveyed the major shopping centre vendors time and again, and they say they don’t want one extra minute of trading hours. It is a direct lifestyle issue for small business owners. A bloke who owns a sport store in a shopping centre won’t shed a tear for not having to go to work on a Sunday,” Cummings says.