In WA, the extended trading hours, which begin on December 5, include an earlier 8am opening on Sundays and later 6pm closing on Saturdays and Sundays.
Shopping hours for public holidays, including Boxing Day have also been extended from 8am until 6pm, however, general retail shops will remain closed on Christmas Day.
By state, trading hours in Victoria and NSW are predominantly deregulated during the holiday season. In Victoria, Christmas Day is the only closed day, whereas in NSW Christmas Day and Boxing Day are the only restricted trading days.
Trading hours in Tasmania, the ACT, and NT have no trading restrictions on public holidays throughout the Christmas period, however, in NT, trading hours for the sale of liquor products are regulated.
In Queensland, opening hours vary depending on the type of shop and its location.
Sluggish state sales
Last year the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reported a 5.7 per cent rise in December retail sales compared to December 2012. Total spending for December 2013 hit $22.6 billion and $40.7 million in the six weeks leading up to Christmas.
According to the ABS, WA saw a meagre 0.1 per cent rise in sales in December 2013, while South Australia was down by 0.2 per cent.
The Independent Retailers Organisation says retailers in WA will have to make additional sales of between $20,000 and $30,000 a week to cover the extra costs of running their businesses following the increase in hours.
Independent Retailers Organisation spokesperson, Bob Stanton, said the extra 53 trading hours in the month amount to around $2500 in additional wages for a small retail business with three employees.
When announcing the extension, WA Commerce Minister, Michael Mischin, said it is not compulsory for any business to trade during the new hours, adding that Christmas trading is consistent with the State Government’s policy of testing the gradual and incremental easing of retail trading restrictions.
John Cummings, president of the WA Independent Grocers Association, claims the move is a “further grab by Wesfarmers and Woolworths to open as long as they can and take as much business as they can”.
“We believe that only two [retailers] will benefit from this. [The State Government] wants this to start from the first week in December, and as everyone in retail knows, Christmas retail spending doesn’t happen until five days before Christmas,” Cummings told Inside Retail PREMIUM.
“The Minister’s justification is that it’s going to create jobs. Who is going to employ more people because Coles and Woolworths can open an hour earlier?”
He says the expansion of retail hours on New Year’s Day and Australia Day from 8am to 6pm “beggars belief”.
“New Year’s Day is one of the slowest retail trading days of the year. It’s not uncommon for Woolworths or Coles stores to not even bother opening on New Year’s Day.”
Debate rages in SA
For South Australian retailers, the State Government’s extension of trading hours this year allows retailers across the city and metropolitan Adelaide to open from 9am instead of 11am every Sunday from November 30 until December 28.
Adelaide traders can also stay open until midnight on the Thursday, Friday, and Tuesday leading up to Christmas Day, and on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day merchants can open from 11am to 5pm.
Australian National Retail Association (ANRA) CEO, Anna McPhee, says South Australia has one of the most complex and restrictive retail trading regimes in the country.
“The extension of trading hours in the lead up to Christmas in previous years has been particularly successful, resulting in higher consumer spending for both large and small businesses as well as higher employment,” McPhee said.
This Christmas, Rundle Mall Management applied for additional trade for Boxing Day, requesting hours be extended from 11am to 5pm, to 9am until 9pm, but was declined by the State Government.
Despite the setback, Amanda Grocock, marketing and events co-ordinator at Rundle Mall Management, said the mall is still seeking extended trade on December 27.
“We’re always trying to strike this balance between a good retail and economic outcome and a lifestyle for retailers,” Grocock told Inside Retail PREMIUM.
“The one that we would still like to talk to State Government about is Saturday, December 27, where we did apply for 9am to 9pm, and that so far hasn’t been provided – it’s still a normal nine to five day.”
Rundle Mall Management is also seeking Sunday trade in line with Saturdays.
“Generally, the retailers we have spoken to in the precinct would just like to control their own trading hours based on who their customer is.
“For some retailers an earlier start would be fantastic, and for others a later close on a Saturday would be ideal. Ultimately, we would be looking to extend Sundays in line with Saturday trade as the longer term goal, just because it makes sense to keep weekend trading consistent.”
Rick Cairney, policy at Business SA, is confident city retailers will maximise the extended hours of trade but, like Rundle Mall Management, says most would prefer a total deregulation of hours, including 9am trade on Sunday, to help combat online competition.
“When trading on public holidays was introduced (in 2012) in the CBD that certainly gave retailers a boost over the public holidays because we weren’t able to do that before,” Cairney told Inside Retail PREMIUM.
“Extended trading over the Christmas period is important, as pre Christmas and post Christmas are the best sales times, but most retailers would like total deregulation.”