By Kymberly Martin

A welcome move.

A move to change to the irregular retail trading hours in Queensland has been applauded by the Australian Retailers Association.

“Retailers have long bemoaned the inconsistent approach to trading hour zones in Queensland and the move by the Queensland Government to create consistency should be welcomed”, ARA executive director, Russell  Zimmerman said.

While not encompassing all the changes some retailers might want, Zimmerman said this was a significant move by the State Government which would grow many businesses and create jobs in a globally competitive environment.

“While the Bill is still to go to Parliament we hope it will have enough support to go through although we don’t have a time on this,” Zimmerman told AR. “There are approximately 90 plus trading zones in Queensland which is unique to the state where you can have different trading hours within a few kilometres.  We understand what is being proposed is that there will be two different trading zones, one for South East Queensland and another for the rest of the state. It makes a lot of sense and simplifies it for consumers and retailers,” he said. “Consumers won’t to have to go and check and see if the shops are open.

“However, I think it is fair to say not everyone approves of the proposed changes. Although it may not affect electrical retail business, small independent supermarkets will not be too happy about it as they have had the upper hand when it comes to trading hours and generally able to trade without restrictions. Where in the past Coles and Woolworths have not been able to trade they will now have fewer restrictions on trading,” he said.

The opt-in options for the regions, and a five year moratorium on the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission in making case-by-case decisions, will remove a very expensive legal barrier for retailers as they no longer have to provide funding to change trading hours.

“Like other states, this means that changes over the next five years will need to be legislative. This subsequently allows customers and retailers to have their say through their elected representatives on changes to be made to trading hours,” he said.

With trading hours in the spotlight again, National Retail Association CEO, Dominique Lamb referred to the Productivity Commission report that has been arguing since 2011 that trading hours be deregulated in all states and it should be up to retailers to decide when to open their doors.

Lamb said when you are running a retail business, there is no point opening unless there is consumer demand so this should be the deciding factor when it comes to opening hours.

“While this sounds logical it is not always the case. While we don’t support full deregulation, in Western Australia and South Australia for instance, we are still seeing legislation that discriminates between retailer, based on location, product sold, number of employees, etc., which allows some stores to trade while others cannot.  Take a boat from the mainland to WA’s Rottnest Island and you’ll find retailers with their doors open whenever it suits them.

“New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Victoria, ACT and Tasmania retailers are now almost entirely unregulated and able to determine how best to service their customers’ needs.

“This week in Queensland, the State Government committed to implementing most of the recommendations of the independent Mickel Review into the state’s trading hours, with butchers now able to trade without restriction, and hardware stores able to open from 6am. It is essential that legislation evolve to reflect a changing retail environment,” Lamb said.