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New body forms to take small business cause

THE retail trading hours debate has sparked the formation of a new industry association that wants to be a political force for thousands of the State’s small business owners.

Called the WA Retail and Small Business Association, the organisation plans to be an umbrella association for a number of the State’s existing small business and retail associations.

WARSBA is targeting small business owners disillusioned with the Government’s current performance in the sector, primarily on its handling of several deregulation issues and have no member organisation or are disenfranchised with current representation.

Industry groups confirmed to be involved in WARSBA are the Independents Action Group and the WA Retailers Association.

WA Business News understands WARSBA has spoken to several other associations ranging from dairy to liquor to become affiliates to the organisation.

As reported in WA Business News last week, several retail and liquor associations had been working closely for more than 18 months on the issues of retail trading hours and liquor licensing changes. It is proving to be a powerful group of lobbyists.

The Government dropped its liquor licensing proposals and its planned legislation changes for the expansion of retail trading hours have become doubtful.

Associations such as the Australian Hotels Association (WA) and the IAG are still lobbying to have the Government's planned expansion of retail trading hours quashed.  It is believed the new WARSBA would be the acting political body for a number of these small business, retail and liquor associations.

 

WARSBA is yet to formalise a board structure but WA Business News has confirmed that WA Retailers Association chief executive officer Martin Dempsey will be the secretary.

Mr Dempsey said WARSBA would offer political clout to the small business sector.

“What we are talking about is getting like-minded people involved to lobby government and provide member benefits,” he said.

“We have a diverse membership base connected by concerns about the big end of town.

“The understanding of what it is like for a small business when you have big business trying to cherry-pick the best parts of your own business is the currency in the marketplace and political arena. It is well and truly on the radar.

Mr Dempsey will remain as CEO of the WA Retailers Association.

IAG president Greg Dean said he would be involved with WARSBA but his official capacity was yet to be determined.

“WARSBA will put up a united face for small business,” he said.

Mr Dean said a number of his members joined his organisation after disagreeing with CCI's stance on retail trading hours last year, through its affiliated Retail Traders Association of WA.

WA Business News also understands several liquor retailers have joined IAG, following the Liquor Stores Association's support of Sunday trading for bottle shops.

WA Independent Grocers’ Association president John Cummings said he had not heard of WARSBA and his organisation was not affiliated to the association. 

WA Business News understands WARSBA has recruited a former executive from one of the big supermarket chains as its chief executive officer.

Mr Dean said a meeting of the stakeholders would take place in a fortnight.

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