Monday, June 17, 2024

Queensland’s retail trading hours inquiry a missed opportunity to innovate, ARA

A Queensland inquiry into retail trading hours has missed the opportunity to modernise and align Queensland’s trading economy with contemporary shopping environments in NSW, Victoria and overseas, says the Australian Retailers Association (ARA). 

ARA CEO Paul Zahra says at a time when the government should be promoting innovation and flexibility to rejuvenate the retail sector, especially in regional Queensland, recommendations made by the Education, Employment and Training Committee’s inquiry into the operation of the Trading (Allowable Hours) Act 1990 have done the opposite.  

“Deregulation of trading hours is desperately needed to give Queenslanders greater choice about when, where and how they shop and to reduce the risk of price gouging that thrives when monopolies are given the regulatory protections to flourish,” says Mr Zahra. 

“What has been demonstrated beyond doubt during the pandemic is that retailers need to remain flexible and have the opportunity to choose when they open their doors to meet changing consumer behaviour. They say never waste a crisis and it’s critical the goodwill between government and industry to support flexible trading hours throughout the pandemic is maintained as the retail sector continues to emerge from lockdown.  

“Unfortunately, the recommendations that have come out of this Inquiry do not allow for greater customer choice or flexibility and have dangerously overlooked the growing online economy including supporting the continued restriction of click-and-collect orders outside of trading hours.  

“Covid has accelerated many trends that were already occurring in the industry. One of these has been online shopping, where consumers can shop anywhere and at any time. All Queenslanders should be able to shop every day of the year, with the exception of Good Friday, Christmas Day and before 1 pm on Anzac Day.  

“As we emerge out of Covid-19, it is important that any restrictions on trade in physical stores be removed so that retailers can start to rebuild their businesses on a level playing field.”

Mr Zahra says deregulation of trading hours will create additional employment opportunities and increase economic activity in local communities, and deregulation will help keep the local spending power in the local community.  

“The pandemic showed the critical role that retailers large and small played supporting the local community both in terms of jobs and resources. All retailers benefit from the drawcard and increased foot traffic driven by larger retailers being open.” 

Mr Zahra calls on the Queensland government to continue its pathway towards deregulation and lift the regulatory barriers to trade so that retailers are not prevented from opening on Sundays and public holidays should they choose to do so.  

“We are concerned the government would even consider placing any constraints on retail trade as our sector limps out of Covid-19 into recovery. We should be removing any and all restrictions on trading hours, so that consumers can shop where and when they want to, and our sector can get back to business and compete with the intense increase in global online shopping,” he says.

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