The Australian National Retailers Association, a consortium of heavyweights including Coles, Woolworths, Bunnings and David Jones, is lobbying the federal government to deliver unrestricted trading every day except Good Friday, Anzac Day and Christmas Day.
Packaged as a reform which would harmonise national trading hours, be beneficial to consumers, and help the chains compete against online retailers – the notion of unrestricted trading hours has shocked independent grocers and small business groups.
Vince Boba, Manager at Superfresh Crows Nest on Sydney’s north shore told Dynamic Business that if the ANRA is successful in its lobbying, the move would have a serious impact on his trade.
“It’s ridiculous because what happens is that if someone can shop at midnight or 1am at Coles or Woolies, well they won’t come to my business and it’s going to take customers away from me,” Mr Boba said, whose store trades until 7pm.
The Council of Small Business of Australia (COSBOA) has vowed to challenge Coles and Woolworths on their claim that extended trading hours will be of benefit to the economy and consumers.
Peter Strong, CEO of COSBOA, says that while he agrees that there is an economic need for uniform trading hours, longer hours will be detrimental and anti-competitive.
“Each community should have the capacity to adjust shopping hours according to the needs of local people and the duopoly should be limited to these set opening hours, thus providing smaller outlets with the opportunity to thrive while meeting community needs for access to retail at convenient times,” Mr Strong said.
“If the duopoly is allowed to extend their hours further, competition will be limited even more and innovation and productivity will continue to decline. The effect on local retail culture and diversity is just as important. If the duopoly is allowed to drive other shops out of business then it is the consumer that will suffer.”
Yet Mr Boba also believes his and shops like his, have an edge over the large supermarkets, as his customers can talk directly with the grocer about the produce.
“We’re majority fruit and vege, and people know we’re fresher, the quality is better, and price-wise it’s similar to the big guys, so it’s a matter of personal choice really.”
Similarly, Jodie Stewart co-owner of Sydney’s organic grocery stores About Life, believes the large supermarkets do not impact her business. Ms Stewart told Dynamic Business that her business trades on credibility and trust, and that she has a different target market.
“I think that with the large supermarkets, there are food credibility issues. For the most part, our customers are just very busy and they don’t have time to do full-on research about the products they’re buying. They just want to go somewhere where they can think ‘Well if I buy it from here, the farmer has been paid a fair price, the food has travelled the least amount of food miles possible, it hasn’t been ripening in cold storage, the environment has been looked after in the process, and it contains as much nutritional content as possible,” Ms Stewart said.
The grocery chains have argued their case for unrestricted trading house in submissions to a Productivity Commission study, Relative Costs of Doing Business in Australia: Retail Trade Industry.