JOSEPH WILSON and JAKE ECKERSLEY
Changes to Christmas trading hours will leave small businesses struggling, according to Independent Grocers Association president Jim Cummings.
The Department of Commerce has allowed retailers to open at 7am and close at 6pm on weekends over the Christmas period. The plan will provide an extra 53 hours of trading time across December and January.
The proposal was drafted in early August by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, with initial plans outlining an additional 100 hours of holiday trading.
Mr Cummings said small businesses had not been consulted about the changes and would be forced to try to compete with larger chain stores. Such competition was unsustainable, he said.
“Small businesses have not been consulted in anyway shape or form. No small business group has been consulted, and no employee group has been consulted,” he said.
“Small businesses will not be open at 7am… if people are buying goods at that time they will be buying them from the national chains, and that will be lost sales to small business.
“It is well documented that retail margins are being squeezed, so gross margins – such as employment and electricity costs – are going up.”
Mr Cummings said the introduction of Sunday trading and late-night trading in Perth had helped large business at the cost of small, family-owned businesses.
WA Commerce Minister Michael Mischin said the introduction of extended trading hours in December would create employment opportunities and better meet consumer demands.
“It would give retail businesses greater freedom of choice and the ability to better cater for the demands of their customers, who may want to shop earlier in the morning or later in the evening,” he said.
“While this decision will ease the restrictions on retail trading at a very busy time of year, it is by no means compulsory for any business to open and close at these times.”
But Mr Cummings said the decision would not create extra jobs nor convince people to spend more money over Christmas.
“Consumers don’t spend money depending on how often shops are open, they spend money depending on how much money they have in their pocket,” he said.
“It was just pandering to what one retailer in WA wanted and the only reason they wanted it was because they believed they could take extra business.”
Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Deidre Willmott said the CCI was pleased the State Government had accepted their proposal.
“December is by far the biggest retail trading month during the year, so the option for additional hours to service this demand in the lead up to Christmas will provide greater flexibility for retailers,” Ms Willmott said.
“This will also be good news to many retail employees who now have more opportunities to pick up extra work.”