Myth 1: Current retail hours are unfair/unbalanced

Are the current arrangements unfair and/or unbalanced?

No. If anything the balance has already swung too far in favour of big retail business and shopping centre landlords.

All NSW retailers can open for trade on almost 99% of days in the year.  Many retailers, including ‘small shops’, petrol stations, fast food outlets and retailers situated in various ‘tourist resort areas’ are entitled to open for trade every day of the year.

Retail workers enjoy some protection on just 4.5 days per year.  Every one of these days is a day of social, cultural or religious significance observed by the Australian community; Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Anzac Day (half day).

The restricted trading day status and the voluntary work rights (where shops are exempt to trade) ensure that hard working retail employees and small retailers have the right to insist that they can take the time with family and friends to celebrate these occasions just like the vast majority of the Australian population.

Is it really too much to ask that retail workers can be guaranteed time with their family and friends on a small number of special days in the year?

Myth 2: Extended trade increases employment

Do extended retail trading hours create more jobs?

No. There is no reliable evidence to suggest that extended retail trading hours increases employment across the industry.

Big retail businesses and shopping centre landlords argue that extending the span of retail trading hours to include significant public holidays such as Boxing Day and Easter Sunday will increase employment in the industry.

This argument has previously been shown to be hollow by independent experts.

In 2006, the South Australian State Government conducted a review into changing retail trading hours.  As part of that review it investigated claims made by big retail business that extending the hours would increase employment.

The review drew upon the findings of an independent report from the South Australian Centre for Economic Studies, which concluded:

“ABS data on retail turnover provides no evidence of a benefit, in that there has been no apparent increase in rate of growth of retail employment in South Australia [since further liberalisation of trading hours]”.

The experience of most retail workers has been that previous extensions of retail trading hours has not increased the total number of hours of work available.

Retail workers report that these hours are simply redistributed because the sales made during the new extended trading hours cannibalise sales at other times of the week.  Consumers don’t generally spend more because of the increased trading hours, they simply spend the same amount across a wider range of hours in the week.

The retailers respond by simply changing rosters and cutting hours at other times.  The opportunity to work has shifted away from ‘normal’ working hours toward unsociable working hours.

The other effect has been the deterioration of permanent employment in the industry over the past 30 years.  Extended trading hours has contributed to a decrease in full-time employment, increase in casual employment, less available work during normal working hours (Monday to Friday, 9 to 5), more work during unsociable times (nights, weekends and public holidays) and less rostering certainty.

With the liberalisation of trading hours, employment now often comes with challenging strings attached, including the requirement to work at unsociable times.  This naturally has a negative impact on many retail workers’ relationships with family, friends and participation in broader community activities.

Myth 3: Consumers demand extended retail trading hours

Is there a consumer push for extended retail trading hours?

No.  There is no genuine demand from consumers for further extended trading hours.

The assertion made by big retail business and shopping centre landlords that there is “high consumer demand” is a sham.

Non-independent and self-serving surveys conducted by some retailers to justify their ambitions do not constitute “high consumer demand”.  Logs of telephone calls received from a handful of disgruntled customers who could not return their faulty Christmas present on Boxing Day do not constitute “high consumer demand”.

The only recent, transparent, broad based and legitimate survey conducted on whether retail trading hours should be further deregulated was conducted in Western Australia in 2005.  On that occasion more than 1 million voters participated in a State Referendum on whether retail trading hours should be liberalised in the evenings and on Sundays.

The people were asked if they supported extended late night trading and Sunday trading.

Over 57% of voters opposed extended late night trading.

Over 59% of voters opposed Sunday trading.

The people of Western Australia, i.e. the consumers, rejected any further extension of retail trading hours when asked the relevant question.  So much for overwhelming consumer demand!

One of the great swindles perpetuated by some retailers was the deliberate re-marketing of the end of year sales.  In more recent years these sales have been rebadged “Boxing Day Sales” when most of these retailers knew that the vast majority of their stores in NSW were not permitted to open on Boxing Day.

The majority (or a significant proportion) of their stores across Australia are also not allowed to open for trade when you take into account NSW, SA and WA.

Some retailers actively encourage a demand, which they cannot lawfully fulfill.  Of course, a small number of consumers eager to pick up the end of year bargains would be ringing and complaining that they could not get to the “Boxing Day Sales” on Boxing Day.  This is not legitimate demand.

A handful of telephone complaints from disgruntled customers on Boxing Day expressing their frustration that their store was not open on Boxing Day for the “Boxing Day Sales” is not genuine demand because the complaint has been caused by the various marketing strategies, advertising and patchwork of exemptions generated by the retailers themselves.

Stand up for retail workers and any further erosion of their precious family time.
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