Pressure mounts on WA to deregulate retail trading hours

Pressure has mounted on the WA Government to deregulate retail trading hours across the state, after the Productivity Commission called for rules on opening times across Australia to be relaxed.


The Commission’s final report on the state of Australian retail, released on Friday, features a raft of recommendations for the Federal Government to consider as it attempts to prop up the sector.


Of these recommendations, the Commission is calling for retail trading hours to be fully deregulated in all states, including on public holidays.


In its response to the report, the Federal Government refused to buy into the argument, saying retail trading hours are “primarily the responsibility of the State and Territory governments”.


This has prompted the Retail Traders’ Association of WA – along with Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi – to put pressure on the WA Government to deregulate retail trading hours.


In November 2010, new WA laws came into effect allowing general retail shops the choice to stay open until 9pm on weeknights.


Before then, general retail shops were allowed to trade at any time during 8am-6pm on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, 8am-9pm on Thursday, and 8am-5pm on Saturday.


However, only retailers in certain areas are able to trade on Sunday.


Wayne Spencer, director of the Retail Traders’ Association, says it “doesn’t take a rocket scientist” to work out that consumers want Sunday trading.


“Sunday trading is the most convenient trading day for consumers and, considering that 70% of Perth households are double income earners, it is sometimes the only day that consumers are able to shop,” Spencer says.


Spencer warns “pent-up dollars” will end up being spent online because people are unable to find the time in their working lives to make it to the shops.


Many small businesses in WA claim it’s not worth opening their store every Sunday because of higher overhead costs, namely higher penalty rates.


However, Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi has also thrown her support behind the Commission’s recommendation, saying deregulation is inevitable.


“[If retailers are] giving good value for money and also providing good service, they should have nothing to fear,” Scaffidi told the ABC.


The Commission said in its report WA is beginning to relax trading hour regulations, noting Premier Colin Barnett’s commitment to take deregulated shopping hours to the next election.


Small Business and Commerce Minister Simon O’Brien said the government is unable to make the change now because it doesn’t have enough numbers in Parliament to change retail laws.


O’Brien said it will be at least 2013 before any re-elected government can introduce Sunday trading across the board in WA.


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