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Pledge to push 24-hour retail trade could disadvantage small business

A pledge from the WA Liberal Party to deregulate retail hours at the next election could have big implications for small business.  

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While overall the move is good news for retailers who want to prolong their hours, according to Associate Professor Sean Sands, co-director at the CXI Group at Swinburne University, the pledge, if rolled out at the next election, could also unfairly disadvantage small retailers by forcing them to stay open for longer hours.

“Problems can exist primarily for small business if they’re operating within shopping centres,” he said.” The law is not forcing them to stay open but shopping centres can have restrictions on the ability of shops to close within operating hours so if shopping centres have to be open for longer hours then smaller retailers need to be open for those hours too,” he said.

Western Australian Liberal Opposition Leader Mike Nahan this week declared he would take the policy of deregulated retail trading hours to the next election.

The policy would see retailers able to choose when to open and according to the Premier, safeguards to protect businesses in shopping centres from being forced to open and ensure a level playing field

Dr Nahan argues that the “out-of-date” trading hours leave WA businesses out of pocket.

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“Premier McGowan appears oblivious to the fact that WA retailers are struggling with a weak economy and that bricks and mortar retailers are facing extensive disruption as internet-based retail expands and consumer habits change,” Dr Nahan said.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said earlier this week that the pledge should come as a concern to small business.

“I thought it was over the top I don’t think 24 hour trading is needed or wanted. I think small business should be very worried,” he said at a doorstop on Tuesday.

Most other states and territories in Australia have almost entirely deregulated trading regimes.

Just months ago the SA Government introduced the Retail Trading Bill 2018 to allow bigger retailers in metro Adelaide flexible trading hours allowed of bigger retailers.

Dr Nahan criticised the WA Government’s regulated trading hours as archaic, with WA one of the states to regulate retail hours across the board.

“No other Australian state has such a restrictive trading hours regime and the fact the Government is limiting opportunities for businesses to open and retail workers to earn more money over Christmas is cause for alarm.

Dr Nahan said that introducing deregulation of retail trading hours would help boost the economy.

“Mr McGowan’s cosy relationship with the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employee’s Union (SDA), the leading opponent of trading hours reform in WA, means his Government cannot be trusted to make decisions on WA’s trading hours which was in the best interests of the State,” he said.

“The SDA directly contributed some $200,000 to Mark McGowan’s 2017 election campaign and ran large and expensive parallel campaigns to support Labor candidates across the State.