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Freo chamber raises ghost town spectre

THE tourism industry and tourist operators could suffer the consequences of deregulation, according to the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber claims that Perth and Fremantle could become ghost towns if trading hours are opened up across the State. FCC executive director John Longley said allowing certain sections of the State to operate seven days a week helped foster tourism.

 “It is an easy cheap shot to say that obviously Fremantle and Perth are against it because they already have Sunday trading,” he said.

“But our main concern is that the two tourism precincts that can trade seven days a week have that for a specific reason. We are a major tourism destination and tourists have a requirement.

“In both of these areas the fact is that viable retail is critical to the success of them as tourist attractions. If that is damaged than we will no longer be as attractive as a tourism destination.”

But it seems that being located in a tourism precinct does not add value to the books of a Sunday trading operator.

One Fremantle shop owner said his store had been devalued by 20 per cent because it opened on a Sunday. Speaking at a recent retailers’ rally, the store owner said the valuation was based on operating costs, including staff wages, and that if seven-day trading went across the board his business would be worth even less.

But it’s not just tourism precinct-based retailers who are likely to suffer the consequences of deregulation, according to WA Retailers Association chief executive officer Martin Dempsey.  He said small businesses operating in big shopping centres already paid a premium to operate and adding more opening hours would increase the hardship.

“They already pay hefty leases and they have to operate in a regulated labour market,” Mr Dempsey said.

“The bottom line is, if there are more hours, more small businesses will be out of business.”

Vic Garcia owns and operates Sportique, a sports speciality store located in Maddington Shopping Centre. He said even if given the option to close on late trading and Sundays, smaller retailers would still be hit with increased running costs.

“We pay variable outgoings; the charges that are on top of rent such as for air-conditioning, security, cleaning and the like,” Mr Garcia said.

“If they run one more day and no-one forces me to open, I still have to pay the costs of the shopping centre opening one more day.”

Woolworths corporate communications manager Ian Brown said WA’s retail playing field wasn’t level.

“If there are restrictions then it needs to be applied evenly,” he said.

A Coles spokesman said WA’s current laws were anti-competitive and consumers should be given more choice.

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