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Queensland trading hours extension ignites industry debate

The National Retail Association (NRA) has put forward its bid to allow all retailers in south east Queensland to open from 7:00am to 9:00pm Monday to Saturday, sparking debate among industry bodies the impact the legislation may have on independents and the convenience sector.

The three week hearing began this week, with the NRA putting forward its proposal in front of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC). The NRA first lodged the application in October 2014, and is advocating for standardised trade throughout the south east corner.

Trevor Evans, CEO of the NRA, said the current rules, introduced 25 years ago, hadn’t evolved alongside people’s changing lifestyles or needs.

“This does not represent any radical shift in the balance currently struck by the trading hours rules, but it will get us as close as possible to having one consistent set of rules again, at least within the south east corner,” Evans said.

“Queensland has the most complex trading hours rules in Australia, with 98 pages of legislation, regulations and instruments, containing more than 180 legal obligations and prohibitions. The state has 50 different trading hours zones, each with its own different rules.”

The proposal, which the NRA states will be not mandatory for retailers if approved, has been opposed by the Masters Grocers Australia (MGA). Jos de Bruin, CEO of MGA, told C&I Week deregulating trading hours puts at risk the livelihood of independent retailers and reduces consumer choice.

“Any extension of trading hours only serves to allow Coles and Woolworths to grow their market dominance and market power and reduces consumer choice,” de Bruin said.

“If hours are deregulated there is a great risk of independent retailers disappearing and in the case of consumers, they’re at risk of losing competition, choice, and diversity.”

Jeff Rogut, CEO of the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS), told C&I Week he believes the convenience sector would be largely unaffected if trading hours were deregulated, allowing supermarkets in south east Queensland to trade longer.

“If other stores are able to trade longer it still doesn’t make us any less convenient. It’s important for those in our industry to understand that it’s up to the retailers to evolve with changing circumstances. To make sure their offer is what customers are looking for and to offer an excellent level of customer service.

“It will impact some, but largely our industry has moved away from the typical lines that a supermarkets sells such as pet food and grocery and we’re more focused on immediate consumption and people on the go.”

Brisbane-based Dr Gary Mortimer of QUT Business School, who is in support of extending opening hours, says convenience stores and supermarkets offer two different value propositions, adding a recent Nielsen report revealed IGA has the highest customer loyalty in Australia, well ahead of the three major supermarkets – Coles, Woolworths and Aldi.

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