The argument against extended shopping hours

Countering this argument JOHN CUMMINGS from WA Independent Grocers Association (Inc.) has said:

The fact that the Premier has cleverly flick-passed responsibility for a decision on retail trading hours to an obligation-free referendum is now pretty much a matter of history.

The question the community must now consider – at a cost of some $600,000 – is what will be the impact and what will be the benefits of supporting the proposed changes.

Firstly, will weeknight and Sunday trading result in more sales and noticeably greater economic activity? Can we afford to buy two new shirts instead of one? Will we buy an extra box of breakfast cereal when, in fact, we only need one? Will the credit card stand a second mobile barbecue or, for that matter, an extra lounge suite?

The fact is, our disposable income after taxes, mortgages, rent and petrol, school fees, and the like is not going to increase just because there are more hours in the week to shop.

For every study by economists claiming theoretical economic gains, there’s an equal and often better study showing economic losses.

Like the referendum, it all depends on the questions and how you interpret the answers. At best, it’s line ball.

Will prices go down because of extra shopping hours? Why would the price of a wide-screen digital television set be any less on a Tuesday than on a Sunday,
particularly when the retailer has to pay double or triple-time wages for staff
working outside normal trading hours?

Equally so, will price discounts on a Wednesday be any greater on a Sunday? Of course not because the cost of doing business, in terms of power, water, telephones and wages, will either remain the same or maybe even increase when shops have to be kept open longer.

And, will retailers who don’t want to open their doors on weeknights and Sundays be forced by the bureaucracy to comply, come hell or high water?

No, they won’t. But the threat of losing customers and market share to major national retailing corporations, and hence their livelihood, will leave them no option but to work longer hours themselves – most are already putting in 70-plus a week.

Taking on casual staff at union-inspired double and triple-time rates is an option but for most it will mean making no additional money, or for some, a significant loss.

Will having shops open extra hours mean greater employment? No, it will not.

It will mean greater casualisation of the workforce along with the introduction of rolling rosters, not to mention far fewer people being able to enjoy the company of their children outside school hours, the benefits of participating in weekend and weeknight sporting and community activities, and the joy of simply having a proper break.

Interestingly, our two largest retailing corporations – Coles Myer and Woolworths – are responsible for just over half Australia’s retail turnover ($61.3 billion) but employ only 16 per cent of the retail sector workforce.

Like the banks, the airlines and the petrol companies, these massive corporations know that their ever-increasing profits – this year amounting to $1.34 billion – are helped by having fewer, not more, staff.

Finally, will having shops open on weeknights and Sundays mean greater convenience for consumers? As is already the case in Sydney and Melbourne, don’t expect to see your local Garden City, Galleria or Karrinyup open after 6pm.

The fact is, the two biggest shopping days are Thursday and Saturday, and people don’t shop after 6pm. This explains why the major retailers in Perth city shut their doors by 6pm each weekday, even though they can stay open until 7pm.

And in the medium term, consider the inconvenience of the local suburban shopping centre without a small supermarket. The 10-minute round-trip to buy milk, bread and eggs will become a half-hour sojourn through a massive car park before a long walk to a poorly staffed major supermarket.

In conclusion, will we see more goods on shelves? Will we really buy any more than what we need or can afford? Will we really create more jobs and will prices actually go down

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