Retail groups are divided over the potential impact of a decision by Queensland’s industrial relations commission to relax trading restrictions for retailers in the state’s southeast.
The Queensland’s Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) made the decision with input from the National Retail Association, Master Grocers Australia, and Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association, however, not all of the industry associations are in favour of the outcome.
The decision, handed down by the QIRC on Friday, has put in motion a change to trading hours from Monday to Saturday for large retailers, which should come into effect by December. The region affected includes Brisbane, Gold Coast, Ipswich, Noosa, and Moreton Bay, and will affect approximately 11,000 stores reports the ABC.
Currently, larger retailers are only able to trade between 8.00am to 9.00pm on Monday to Friday, and between 8.00am and 5.00pm on Saturday.
Following the changes, these retailers will be allowed to trade between 7.00am and 9.00pm from Monday to Saturday. There are no chances to Sunday trading rules.
The changes apply to all retailers, apart from those classified as independent retail shops or exempt shops. Independent retail shops and except shops in Queensland already have generally unrestricted trading hours, given they do not employ more than 20 people, and are owned by an individual, partnership, or proprietary company.
Up until now, the trading restrictions on larger retailers have been seen to benefit the smaller retailers who are able to trade at those times, and lawyer for Master Grocers Australia David Sztrajt told SmartCompany he believes the changes will provide an unfair advantage for larger retailers
“This is another example of big businesses getting an unnecessary advantage over smaller retailers. The trading hour extensions was where a lot of smaller retailers made their sales,” Sztrajt says.
However, the National Retail Association believes the changes will create jobs in the region, with NRA chief executive officer Dominique Lamb saying in a statement the decision will “drive the creation of around 1000 new jobs.”
“During the hearing, the NRA presented independent economic research showing the hours sought could add $111 million to the economy, and create 1000 new jobs. So this will be a very good outcome for Queensland businesses and workers,” Lamb said.
“This is a great day for Queensland retail businesses, large and small, a great day for the people who work in those businesses, and a great day for busy consumers.”
Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the Australian Retailers Association, shares a similar view and told SmartCompany the trading hours changes were “a great opportunity for the retail industry.”
“Retailers should be able to trade when and where they want to, and no one formula suits any one retailer. If you sell ice cream, your best trading hours will be different to some other retailer’s best trading hours,” Zimmerman says.
“This is going to add an incredibly large amount of extra opportunities for employment as retailers will have more money to spend. Part-time workers could be offered full time work, and unemployed people will have more opportunity for employment.”
Zimmerman doesn’t believes the new trading hours will hurt smaller retailers, citing Melbourne’s retail environment as an example.
“Melbourne has virtually got deregulated trading hours, retailers can trade almost anytime they want to, and it has as many small operators you would see anywhere else,” he says.
But according to Sztrajt, the loss of discretional spending and increased staffing costs for smaller retailers in southeast Queensland will instead result in more jobs being lost.
“We disagree with the claims that the change will create more jobs. What it will do is reduce and spread out discretional spending at smaller retailers,” he says.
“Also, smaller operators will now be forced to extend their trading hours to match the bigger retailers. When costs go up, the first thing to go for smaller retailers is staff numbers.”
MGA chief executive Jos De Bruin agrees, saying in a statement on Friday “a number of independent community supermarkets and retailers across SEQ [southeast Queensland] … will now have to consider their ongoing sustainability”.
“This move will give the supermarket duopoly another unfair competitive advantage in Queensland, facilitated by their enormous market power and consequent ability to manipulate the market.”
Sztrajt hopes MGA can prevent further trading hour changes across the state, and believes the government should conduct a review further down the line.
“At the moment what we’re pushing for is no change in trading hours. If there’s no increase in the immediate term, say three to five years, then the government can conduct a review to see the benefit or detriment to retailers in the state.”
The state is currently undergoing a review for trading hours in all regions, and Lamb believes the QIRC’s latest decision could provide a guide for the government’s decision.
“We believe this outcome is a good starting point for the discussion of what would be appropriate state-wide,” she said.
Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace has told the ABC the government will take the decision into consideration.
“It will also consider any other relevant matters, including the impact on workers and small business,” she said.