Retailers are calling on the states and territories to come up with unified trading hours for public holidays after Woolworths was accused of breaching complicated Anzac Day trading restrictions in New South Wales.
Most businesses in NSW are not allowed to open on Anzac Day before 1pm.
However, small businesses, including newsagencies and petrol stations, are exempt from these rules.
The state government has generally turned a blind eye to retailers having workers on site to prepare for the 1pm opening, but this year the government told larger retailers, including the big supermarkets, they could not have employees come into stores before 1pm to prepare certain items such as roast chicken.
Woolworths appears to have gotten around this rule by having store managers who are on a salary elect to come to work and prepare stores earlier than 1pm. According to reports, employees in some Woolworths stores were preparing fresh produce from around 10am yesterday.
Woolies rival Coles claims this is not on and says Woolworths could face fines of $11,000 per store, according to Fairfax.
However, a spokesperson for Woolworths told SmartCompany the supermarket giant did not break any trading rules.
“Clear direction was given to stores that volunteer, salaried managers were allowed to enter and undertake certain limited preparations for opening at 1pm,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“This is in line with the NSW regulations. We were keen to ensure our customers’ shopping experience … [yesterday], as on all days, met their expectations.”
Retailers want simpler rules across the board
Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the Australian Retailers Association, told SmartCompany yesterday was a headache for many businesses thanks to complex opening hours that differ from state to state.
“It depended on what size retailer you were,” Zimmerman says.
“There were that many rules around it [opening], that it does make it complicated. This needs tightening up to make sure retailers know what the rules are so they don’t inadvertently flout the law.”
Zimmerman says it’s additionally complicated for retailers with a national reach, because they have to juggle rules in different states, some of which may differ depending on the size of the store and whether it is located in a CBD or suburban area.
“Consumers want retailers to be open, otherwise they wouldn’t open on Anzac Day,” he says.
“But on the other side, we have to respect our servicemen and servicewomen.”