Y Research principal Damian Stone physically inspected 78 of Perth’s largest supermarket-based centres. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Retailers cut trading hours

Wednesday, 5 August, 2020 - 15:40

Nearly half of Western Australia’s major shopping centre retailers are operating on reduced hours despite relaxed COVID-19 restrictions, according to a study conducted by Y Research.

The independent research firm assessed more than 5,000 retailers across Perth’s 78 largest shopping centres and found that 47.8 per cent of retailers had responded to changed consumer spending by cutting opening hours by an average of 18.7 per cent per week.

Y Research principal Damian Stone said retailers were generally opening an hour later and closing half an hour earlier per day (10am to 5pm, rather than 9am-5.30pm) with the exception of Thursdays.

“On Thursdays, many retailers have reduced their hours by 3.29 hours – mainly by not trading until 9pm,” he said.

“The decision by retailers – both independents and major chains – to reduce their trading hours is reflective of the fact that consumers decide when stores open.

“So far people have voted with their wallets – either by increased online shopping, reduced discretionary spending or not spending at all.”  

Following the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions Mr Stone conducted the study of retailers by physically inspecting 78 of Perth’s largest supermarket-based centres from Butler in the north and Mundaring in the east to Halls Head in the south during June 2020.

“The study’s aim was to determine each centre's retailers’ current response to the COVID 19 pandemic,” he said.

“It found 97.4 per cent of the 5,240 occupied stores within the 78 shopping centres were open for trade. This compares to just 38.7 per cent of retailers open across the major 16 shopping centres in late April 2020,” he said.

“Based on discussions with various retailers – forecasting consumer spending is a daily challenge.

“As a result, retailers are focusing on keeping costs as low as possible either by reducing staff numbers or trading hours.”

Retail workers he said had been among the hardest hit.

“Retail workers in these centres are losing out in WA. Based on the minimum hourly rate of $19.49, employees across all centres are missing out on at least $100,156 in lost wages per day,” Mr Stone said.

“Across the largest 48 centres, retailers in each centre are forgoing an estimated average of $35,775 per day in sales compared to last year due to the reduced hours and continued store closures.”  

Mr Stone noted that fashion retailers, in particular women’s fashion, had been the most aggressive in reducing their trading hours.

“There are examples of national fashion chains closing certain stores on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Across centres, there remains inconsistency with brand name retailers opening in some centres but remaining closed in others,” he said.

“The continued closure of these stores suggests national chains may look to close these under-performing stores in the months ahead, adding to existing high vacancies.”