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Free trade for some

 

THE deregulation of retail trading hours is expected to deliver a bonus to some retail property owners, however, not everyone will emerge a winner.

One retail property analyst said the spectre of deregulated trading hours represented two very different scenarios for retail property in WA.

“The deregulation of trading hours will have some big positives for some centres and some big negatives for others,” he said.

Any analysis of the impact of trading hours on retail property needed to be undertaken on a case-by-case basis.

Property Council of WA executive director Joe Lenzo said deregulation of trading hours was something of a concern for smaller centres, however, it was good news for the larger ones.

“For the larger centres to perform to their maximum value they need to be open seven days a week,” he said.

Mr Lenzo said he felt the impact on smaller centres would be minimal because the operators would not be compelled to open on Sundays.

“When you look at it for the medium to large centres it’s a plus,” he said.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Lyndon Rowe said the deregulation of trading hours was simply an issue of national competition policy.

“This requires the States to remove any regulation which inhibits competition unless they can show a public interest,” Mr Rowe said.

“The competition council is now saying that unless you [WA] does something the Federal Government is looking to reduce the payments.

“The argument that this is the big bad guys from the east is just not true.”

Mr Rowe claimed there was no case to support regulated trading hours.

“From our point of view we support free enterprise and competition,” he said.

“It’s not the role of Government to award advantage to individual businesses.

“A productivity report from Victoria shows that retail sales grew by twice the national average since deregulation.

“And nobody wants to go back to the stage where you couldn’t go to Dewsons on the weekend.”

Mr Rowe believes consumers will respond very positively to deregulated trading hours.

However, WA Retailers Association CEO Martin Dempsey wants to know what the cost of that will be.

He said he welcomed Premier Geoff Gallop’s statement that the council was holding WA to ransom.

Mr Dempsey said the council’s approach was similar to the stand over tactics employed by the major retail chains to intimidate small operators.

“I’m very pleased that Gallop has put it that way. What I say is ‘welcome to being a small business operator’,” he said.

Mr Dempsey claimed that small operators would be forced to increase their prices to support the wage costs of opening on a Sunday.

“The largest number of swinging voters are in small business,” he said.

“If you honestly think that multinational corporations have your best interests at heart or even the best interests of consumers at heart you trust them a hell of a lot more than me.”

WA Independent Grocers Association president John Cummings argued that the fight over deregulated trading hours would continue for at least the next six months.

“I don’t think it’s inevitable that one has to be practical and say that the current trading hours will probably be different in years to come,” he said.

“A lot of people are saying that it will deliver an economic benefit to WA but small businesses are the biggest employers.”

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