A historic referendum that could pave the way for long awaited retail trading hours reform in South Australia has been welcomed by the retail industry.
The reform package to be introduced by the South Australian state government ultimately seeks to give South Australians the say on whether large retailers can extend their trading hours to cater to their customers’ needs and give consumers more choice.
‘Power to the people’
Shopping Centre Council of Australia Executive Director Angus Nardi says the announcement of a referendum gives a clear voice to consumers on an overdue reform.
“We know that when trading hours are extended, it is met with strong retailer and consumer demand. The referendum will clearly give power to the people to have their say,” he says.
“We look forward to engaging with the government and other stakeholders on this issue and correcting a lot of misleading information that surfaced when the Bill was considered in 2018.
“Extended trading hours have been enacted in the majority of states for many years, which has provided greater levels of employment opportunity and allowed consumers to shop more flexibly in line with the demands of modern lifestyles.”
All about choice
National Retail Association Chief Executive Dominique Lamb says the extension of trading hours was long overdue in SA, and many retailers had been at a disadvantage as a result.
“This is about retailer and consumer choice, and we hope that the debate is more than just supermarkets,” she says.
“We know that many small retailers benefit when larger retailers can open and trade, particularly in shopping centre environments.
“Many retailers are frustrated with the rigid schedule made available to them by the current laws, which restricts their flexibility to respond to their customers’ needs.
“The enactment of the extended trading hours will put money back into the pockets of local businesses, increase employment of students and part-time workers and enliven shopping precincts as social areas.”
Flexibility is key
Australian Retailers Association CEO Paul Zahra says the issue is a decades old challenge and it was high time consumers were given the chance to decide if there should be more flexibility for when shops can open.
“We support the South Australian government’s sustained efforts to deregulate shop trading hours and to put the issue to a vote at the next state election,” he says.
“This is the right call, at the right time, to bring SA into line with contemporary practice which serves the best interests of the consumer and retailers.
“Flexibility is at the heart of consumers interests – we live in a world where people need to be able to live, shop and work flexibly and to therefore shop with maximum convenience. Failing to deliver this experience to South Australians will undermine the economic recovery efforts and drive shoppers to pursue other options.
“Sadly, opposition and crossbench MPs have indicated they’ll block the bill to enable the referendum. This would be a tremendous blow to retailers who’ve consistently argued for more flexible trading hour arrangements.
“Shops should be given the flexibility to open when customers want to shop – in the morning on weekends, in the evening during the week and on public holidays. At the moment we have outdated trading hour restrictions in SA that are not reflective of modern-day consumer trends – and that needs to change.
“We urge opposition and crossbench MPs to reconsider their positions and to support the government’s bill to enable the referendum.”
The South Australian government is set to introduce the Bill to state parliament this week, seeking Parliament’s approval to put the referendum to electors on March 19 next year.