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ARA – the voice of Australia’s retail community

(Source: Supplied)

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is the oldest, largest and most diverse national retail body, which represents over 100,000 shopfronts or online stores nationwide and almost two-thirds of Australia’s $360 billion sector.

The ARA unifies independent, national and international retail businesses under a shared vision and purpose, advancing the interests of Australia’s largest private sector employer.

On behalf of our members, we make strong, effective representations to ministers, government departments and agencies, regulators, authorities, and other entities in determining the framework within which Australian retailers operate.

ARA members enjoy access to expert advice covering employment relations, legal, HR, leasing, as well as data and insights on important thought leadership topics and training and development opportunities for them and their staff, plus plenty of other exclusive benefits. 

What makes the ARA truly unique is that it’s a peak retail body, led by retailers and governed by a pro-bono council of retailers that act as its board. 

Our history

The ARA has a deep history that dates to when Australia was federated. Founded as the Master Retailers Association of NSW in 1903, it has had many iterations since then. 

Back then, as the NSW organisation began to grow and prosper, other state-based associations were established as well, and eventually came together with the advent of World War II as members of the Australian Council of Retailers. This body functioned until 1974 when it changed its name to the Australian Retailers Association, however it continued to change names in the 80s and 90s as well.

In the 1990s, the different state-based retail associations agreed the issues affecting retailers were no longer exclusively covered by state governments and that a strong nationwide organisation was essential for a consistent industry response across Australia. Based on this consensus, it was agreed that all state-based associations amalgamate to become the Australian Retailers Association (ARA).

In May 2004, a new registered organisation was approved in which the various state bodies became divisions of the ARA. Queensland was the only state not to join, and to this day continues to be represented by its own state-based association. 

In October 2006, the state divisions of the ARA were abolished, and a new structure was created that saw the ARA become a true national organisation. 

Through the global financial crisis, natural disasters, and more recently the Covid-19 pandemic, the ARA has guided the industry through some of its darkest times and ensured the sector was resilient through some unprecedented challenges. 

Why join the ARA

At the ARA, we represent some of the largest retailers in the country – from the major supermarkets, department stores, fashion outlets and providers of household goods and consumer electronics, however the vast bulk of our membership are small- and medium-sized businesses, most of whom are omnichannel retailers. 

We support members in training and development through the ARA Retail Institute, with recruitment through the ARA Talent Registry and with risk management through ARA Insurance.

We also have a wide network of strategic partners including Deloitte, Mastercard, Salesforce, Afterpay, Hitch Advisory, Rest, American Express, Fabric and QUT – that covers everything from payments, legal, research, creative and superannuation. They offer a range of insights and share their expertise, so retailers are better informed about current challenges and future trends.

The ARA most recently has been assisting retailers in their sustainability journey through our Climate Action Plan and Net-zero Roadmap, and to address imbalances in our sector between women and men through our Gender Equality Position Statement. 

To learn more about ARA’s exclusive member benefits and more, visit

Sponsored by the Australian Retailers Association