The role of the Retail Shops Advisory Committee

The Retail Shops Advisory Committee was established as part of the Retail Trading Hours Act 1987 to monitor retail trends and to advise Government on policy and related retail trading hours’ issues. The Act allows for four categories of shops:

  • General Retail Shops. This includes all shops that are not identified in the remaining categories. General shops are not limited in the goods they can sell, staff numbers or number of shops operated. These shops can trade during normal trading hours only.
  • Small Retail Shops. Shops in this category must have no more than four owners and two outlets. No more than ten people can operate the store at any time and goods for sale must conform to a range specified for that purpose. Small shops have extended hours of trading.
  • Special Retail Shops. The special retail category provides for seven day trading by specified shops that supply only goods that conform to the limits prescribed by regulation for each class of special shop. There are no restrictions on the number of owners or outlets. Examples are pharmacies, newsagents and hardware stores.
  • Service Stations. Fuel outlets have flexible trading hours and can now sell a wide range of products as specified in the Act. The Act also limits the number of owners of a Service Station.

The Retail Shops Advisory Committee is made up of 15 members from various interest groups including small and large retail groups, unions, tourism and consumers. CAWA currently has three members appointed to the Committee. Issues for consideration are referred to the committee by the Minister of Employment and Consumer Protection. The Retail Shops Advisory Committee met twice in 2004.

Issues commonly brought before the Committee relate to trading hours, usually over the Easter, Anzac Day and Christmas/New year periods, and requests for products to be included on the list of permissible goods for a Special Shop category.

Once an item is on the agenda each stakeholder is asked to make a submission to the Department of Consumer and Employment Protection that outlines their point of view. The Committee can then debate the issue and vote on a recommendation to the Minister. For the last few years CAWA has supported trading on two Sundays before Christmas and several additional late nights. While consumers have a variety of needs we try to take a “middle of the road” approach.

Other agenda items involved requests to have goods included on the list of permissible items for sale in Special Shops. The recent trend to promote the use of calico bags as an environmentally preferred alternative to plastic bags has highlighted the restrictive and outdated state of the Act. Special Shops have submitted a request to include calico bags on the list of goods they are able to sell. Without the inclusion of calico bags on their particular list it is illegal for many Special Shops to sell them. We presume the Minister will not hesitate to make the necessary alterations to allow all shops to sell and promote calico bags.

Recently the Federal Government requested the State Government of WA to remove restrictions to trading hours under Competition Policy requirements. Failure to do so would restrict payment of money to the State under the Competition Policy review. A comprehensive study involving all stakeholders was conducted resulting in a recommendation to Government that some extension to weeknight trading should be made but total deregulation of trading hours was not recommended. The Government took the stance that they had made an election promise not to allow any extension to trading hours during this term of office. The latest development is the referendum on trading hours to be held concurrently with the State Government election early in 2005.

For further information on the Act contact the Department of Consumer and Employment Protection.

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