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Penalty rates proposal has major flaws

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is opposed to the Victorian Labor Government’s proposal to enshrine excessive public holiday penalty rates into law, which would lead to significant negative impacts for retailers and employees alike amid tough trading conditions and restrained spending.

The regulations would apply on Easter Sunday, Christmas Day and Grand Final Friday, and will have a direct effect on hard-working retailers who are already struggling to stay afloat in the current economic climate.

Many beloved retail institutions have closed over the past year, and more financial pressure will only add to the decline.

Rising rental costs and poor consumer sentiment have retailers feeling the pinch. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) recently released post-Christmas trade figures, finding that spending had been more conservative than expected.

While January trade figures were softer than expected nationally, those for Victoria were well below the highs of last October. The numbers remained fairly flat at 0.11 per cent month-to-month growth and 4.23 per cent year-on-year.

The Victorian retail sector was worth $79.2 billion last year and is the state’s second largest employer, with 280,000 people working in retail trade.

But while the Andrews Government claims to be focused on employees’ interests, it is seemingly unaware of the impact the proposed policy would have on them.

"Paying high public holiday penalty rates could force retailers to reconsider rostering, with staff losing out on shifts – some retailers may be forced to simply close their doors"

Paying high public holiday penalty rates could force retailers to reconsider their rostering, with staff losing out on shifts; some retailers may be forced to simply close their doors on public holidays – leading to lost wages for staff, and driving consumers online instead.

Hefty fines might also apply to business owners who close their doors on public holidays, if their premises are located in a shopping centre.

The ARA will continue to advocate on behalf of its members to protect the retail industry’s integrity and sustainability into the future.

Good news in South Australia

In positive public holiday news, the South Australian Government has offered suburban retailers the opportunity to trade on Easter Monday from 11am to 5pm.

While metropolitan and online retailers have previously been able to take advantage of holiday trade, their local counterparts have been left out.

The new rules will mean greater convenience for consumers, more sales for suburban retailers and extra wages for retail staff, who will have the option to take on public holiday shifts.

The Marshall Government extended Boxing Day trading hours last year following strong demand from retailers and shoppers, who wanted to take advantage of the traditional sale time.

This latest decision brings South Australia into line with other states and territories, and is a positive step toward removing old-fashioned restrictions and adapting to the needs of today’s consumer-led retail market.

Awards for outstanding retailers

Submissions for the 2019 Eftpos ARA Australian Retail Awards are now open! This year’s awards will be held on 15 August at Myer Mural Hall in Melbourne.

The event will highlight the breadth of talent across Australia’s retail landscape, and acknowledge those leaders who are propelling the industry forward. This year’s awards will include 12 categories, from digital retailers to national organisations, exceptional employees and innovative store fit-outs. One of the most exciting additions is the Retail Businesswoman Of The Year category.

Retailers are encouraged to submit an entry or nominate an extraordinary employee before 17 May. All submissions are free. Visit for more information.

Russell Zimmerman

Russell Zimmerman is the executive director of the Australian Retailers Association (ARA). Email:

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