Fast Lane: Why can’t we get our act together on retail trading hours?

Fast Lane: Why can’t we get our act together on retail trading hours?

Myer chief Bernie Brookes has come out swinging against retail trading hours.

In Myer’s submission to the Harper review into competition policy, Brookes argues for reform of inconsistent trading hours between states and territories.

“There is an urgent need for a consistent regime across Australia to allow retailers to trade in line with consumer demands: we believe this is in the interests of business, employees and our customers,” he says in the submission.

Under the current regime, Myer and other retailers are unable to trade in many parts of New South Wales on Boxing Day, one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

In Queensland 98 pages of legislation, regulations, and instruments, containing over 180 legal obligations and prohibitions govern retail trading.

The state currently has 50 different trading hours zones, each with its own different rules and in some areas retailers operating within walking distance of each other are governed by different trading hours regulations.

Brookes comments reflect those made earlier this year by Woolworths and Coles, which also wants inconsistent trading hour regulations abolished. 

It’s no surprise that big businesses which operate across state and territory borders want consistency. 

But a balance needs to be struck between the need for retailers to trade in line with consumer demands and the need for small and medium business owners and staff to have a life.  

The draft Harper report recommendation is that trading hours are abolished altogether as they are anti-competitive.

The exceptions would be Christmas Day, Good Friday, and Anzac Day morning.

A complete abolition of restrictions goes too far and puts small businesses in an unwinnable position when trying to compete with the vast resources of the larger retailers.

But there should be consistency Australia wide on retail trading hours and these trading hours need to be more liberal given internet retailers can trade at any hour of day and night.

SMEs are hamstrung by trying to decipher complex retail trading hours at a time when they need to be able to focus on competing with their online rivals.

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