By Claire Reilly

SYNDEY, NSW: The Australian National Retailers Association is calling on the Federal Government to come to the aid of the retail industry, a sector “which has performed well below its long-term annual sales growth pace of around 6%,” according to a submission to the Productivity Commission.

The 40-page submission, titled “Economic Structure and Performance of the Australian Retail Industry” highlights issues currently facing Australian retailers, and makes 18 recommendations for creating a “level playing field”.

The most significant of these are recommendations that highlight issues faced by bricks-and-mortar retailers competing with international suppliers and online stores. Such recommendations include the removal of Customs Duty from imports, the removal of parallel importing restrictions and the reduction of the low value import threshold to $100 within the next budget cycle, according to the submission.

The last point follows a release from the Productivity Commission in early April, which found that a reduction in the $1,000 GST-free threshold from overseas online purchases would not necessarily be worthwhile.

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On a more sweeping scale, the submission also calls for the Australian Government to create a Minister for Retail, and asks that the Productivity Commission conduct “a review of the taxes facing retailers and looks at ways to reduce the number of taxes paid and the size of taxes paid”.

In terms of day-to-day operations in the retail industry, the submission asks that retailers be allowed to set their own opening times (including opening during “restricted trading days”) and asks for “restraint in minimum award wage increases while the retail sector is experiencing soft growth”.

CEO of ANRA, Margy Osmond, reiterates that an inquiry by the Productivity Commission is necessary considering recent challenges faced by the retail industry.

“Australian retailers are cutting prices to the quick, but they still struggle to compete in a global environment where they pay duties and taxes that online importers do not; they pay wages, rents, sick leave and other necessary benefits that overseas suppliers do not have to pay,” Osmond said.

“Retail is an important industry in Australia. A leading employer and a significant contributor to the economy, without input from Government to remove the impediments to industry, there are very real threats to the sector.

“However, the right policy environment could ensure Australian retailers are full participants in the global market place – which will encourage better deals for Australian shoppers.”

ANRA was formed in 2006 to represent the interests of Australia’s biggest retailers. Members named on the submission including Harvey Norman, David Jones, Bunnings and Costco, and beyond these, the submission states that it “also represents the views of non-ANRA member, Myer”.