Independent retailers to lose competition if hours amended

Monday 22 May, 2017

Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations Grace Grace introduced the Trading (Allowable Hours) Amendment Bill 2017 to the Queensland Parliament in March.

The Bill, which will be debated by Queensland MPs tomorrow (May 23), aims to increase trading times and reduce the current 99 trading hour categories to six.

Minister Grace claims it will reduce red tape and create jobs.

But, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland (CCIQ), which represents the state’s 414,000 small business, believes the Bill fails to recognise that the changes will erode the competitive edge these businesses have over large national stores.

Small businesses are in every community in every region. The vibrant small business culture has been able to thrive due to competitive advantages afforded to them with current trading hours.

By allowing larger national monopolies and duopolies to trade in hours previously reserved for exempt and independent retailers, it will put Queensland small business viability and sustainability at serious risk.

Independent retailers are the backbone of communities, hiring and supplying locally. These businesses, often family-owned and family-run, help reduce unemployment, grow and stimulate the local economy.

For example, IGA stores source ethical local produce, propping up small regional farmers; hire young locals (which addresses regional youth unemployment), paying them a full wage as opposed to the lower than award rate union negotiated EBAs paid by the larger duopolies, and provide a vital service to the immediate area.

The vital edge they have over the Coles, Woolies and Aldis is being able to open earlier, close later and be there for the local community on public holidays, when the big guys are shut. It is a small, but precious advantage.

It is often the fine line that keeps them in business.

CCIQ research shows that money invested in these local independent stores is reinvested in the same community. Independent retailers often purchase from other local retailers, boosting the local economy and community.

It is a complex symbiotic relationship and any disruption to the balance which reduces cash-flow will impact the whole everyone – from the butcher to the baker, to the ….

Allowing big business to encroach on independent retailers’ trading hours, while preventing them to expand their own inventories by amending the Liquor Act, simply invites the expansion of the major supermarket chains into areas where independent retail stores are heavily constrained. This will take more money out of the local community and into the pockets of big multinational business owners.

Small businesses are already struggling under high levels of red tape, increasing operational costs (such as soaring energy bills) and high wage inputs. A reduction of their competitive edge may be the final nail in the coffin.

Anecdotal evidence suggests than many small businesses could close if they have to compete with a major supermarket or hardware store that comes to town because trading hours have been amended to allow them to open at the same times.

Currently, the two large food retailers in Australia have cornered over 60 per cent of the market. Sales by independent stores during times when non-exempt stores are prohibited from trading forms a significant part of their daily/weekly sales volume.

trade graphic

Consumers may think a “level playing field” across Queensland will stimulate the economy and create more jobs.

Even Queensland Parliament’s Finance and Administration Committee, tasked with reviewing the Bill, was of the opinion that “job losses threatened to the smaller independent traders who cannot compete with the lesser wages paid by the big non-exempt operators under their union negotiated EBAs would result in net job losses to the retail sector”.

It is important that consumers support small independent businesses and buy local, no matter the hour. This will not only support your local retailer but will support and grow the local economy.

While CCIQ recognises there needs to be reform, it should not be at the expense of the corner store and the cornerstone of the Queensland economy.


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