Council parking policies stifling retail opportunity

Last week I appeared on The Big Sell on SBS’s Insight current affairs program hosted by Jenny Brockie, a hugely capable and incisive journalist and presenter backed up by an equally clever and incisive team. It felt a little odd as my office has been over the road from the SBS studios in Sydney for almost 12 years, and yet I had never set foot inside the building. 


The Big Sell focused on the current pain being felt within Australian retailing, and thus Australian manufacturing and distribution, and thus the Australian GST, PAYE tax base and thus, well the whole of the Australian economy.

When we stop buying stuff every single one of us suffers in some way. Official statistics show that 1.2 million Australians, or a little more than one in 10 Australians works directly in retailing. From work I have done with major retailers in other countries it is fair to say that for every job directly employed within a retailer, there are between one and two jobs that depend on that retailer. Sound farfetched?

I was in a store chain in China were the 350 store network directly employed 30,000 staff. We managed to find a further 60,000 who called on those large format stores. For every job in the retailer there were two jobs created servicing the retailer.

That is why what is happening in retail matters to everybody in Australia. And that is why all parts of the equation: employees, retailers, manufacturers and importers, three levels of Government and the union movement, need to find a way through our current quagmire.

On the Insight website after the show were almost two hundred comments. One that highlighted the role of our third tier of Government (that is local government) in creating retail jobs was key.

Dean Johnston from Melbourne wrote: “Local councils have had a large impact on strip shopping. One of the pleasures of online shopping is that I don’t have to worry about the expense of time elapsed on a parking meter.”

The role of councils matters because traditional retail stores that just want to earn a decent living in the community, and vibrant new store formats that may grow to be huge chains, all have to start on or near the high street. Why? Because most of the high street is owned by smaller landlords, with older properties who can offer lower rents that allow access to thousands of shoppers.

When councils, and their dedicated parking and traffic managers, think only of moving the bus or motorbike or car through as fast as possible, or think only of getting us in and out of their suburb or town centre as fast as possible, or who think only of parking sourced income, they actively, if unwittingly, destroy jobs in retail and in their communities.

They also actively, if unwittingly, stifle creativity and innovation among new young retailers. We really do need a re-think within our local councils. Perhaps even some innovation.

In his role as CEO of CROSSMARK, Kevin Moore looks at the world of retailing from grocery to pharmacy, bottle shops to car dealers, corner store to department stores. In this insightful blog, Kevin covers retail news, ideas, companies and emerging opportunities in Australia, NZ, the US and Europe. His international career in sales and marketing has seen him responsible for business in over 40 countries, which has earned him grey hair and a wealth of expertise in international retailers and brands. CROSSMARK Asia Pacific is Australasia’s largest provider of retail marketing services, consulting to and servicing some of Australasia’s biggest retailers and manufacturers.


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