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Australian Retailers Association (ARA) Restructure

After years of division between its state bodies, the ARA recently announced a restructure to integrate its state entities to provide a consistent and more effective national service to retailers.

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In a special meeting of members in October, the vote was overwhelmingly in favour of establishing a new national ARA Council and management structure, and to dissolve state divisions.

The decision follows six months of intensive planning and was largely influenced by trends towards national regulation and legislation, and to better service retailers at a national and state level. “The new structure would enable the ARA to provide a strong single voice for all retailers throughout Australia,” says ARA president Aart Van Roest. “Other primary objectives were to improve the quality of retailing in Australia and to enhance the status of careers in retail.”

The ARA Council has identified two immediate priorities to benefit members: to tackle the rapid increase in tenancy and outgoing costs; and minimising merchant service fees on EFTPOS and credit cards.

For more information visit the ARA website at www.ara.com.au

Minimum Wage Increase

The decision handed down by the Australian Fair Pay Commission (AFPC) in October to increase the federal minimum wage by more than $27 a week was met with mixed reactions—all mostly negative from industry representatives.

The new increase applies to all federal award wage workers earning up to $700 per week (estimated at more than one million people), with the Commission also awarding an increase of $22.04 per week to all award wage workers earning more than $700 per week (an estimated 220,000 workers).

Professor Ian Harper, chairman of the AFPC says the decision was balanced and fair, and provided a real increase for low-paid workers. “The higher increase for workers earning less than $700 per week reflects findings in the Commission’s research and advice contained in submissions that lower-paid workers are more reliant on minimal wages.”

Not surprisingly the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) welcomed the wage increase. “The ACTU has argued that these workers needed an increase of at least $30 to ensure they did not slip further behind after their pay had been frozen by the Federal Government for 18 months,” says ACTU secretary Greg Combet. “The $27 awarded by the Fair Pay Commission comes close to the benchmark that the ACTU and unions had set.”

Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews says the decision is proof to the Labor party and unions that WorkChoices wouldn’t reduce the minimum wage. “The 2006 Minimum Wage determination is the first such decision to be handed down by the independent Australian Fair Pay Commission; it marks the beginning of a simpler and fairer wage setting process.”

But it’s the business sector that will feel the biggest pinch. Both the National Retail Association (NRA) and the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) question the fairness of this decision. The NRA says the increase is totally unexpected and is 50 percent more than the highest general wage increase ever awarded by the AFPC’s predecessor. “Employers are entitled to expect consistency in outcomes of wage fixing tribunals,” the NRA said in a statement released when the increase was announced. The NRA claims the increase will add $1.8 billion to the national retail wages bill each year, and the AFPC has placed at risk the viability of many small retailers who are struggling to survive in the face of intense competition, slowing consumer spending and increasing rents.

CEO of the ARA David Edwards says the decision shocked retailers and would be unsustainable by many in the sector. “The decision means a whopping $1,750 per year increase for shop assistants that regularly work key trading hours including Saturdays and Sundays.”

He says the ARA’s submissions to the AFPC had cautioned the new commission that the retail industry is particularly sensitive to labour cost increases and that the real impact in the retail industry of wage increases is much higher than amounts awarded because of the flow-on effect to penalty rates, overtime rates, superannuation and payroll costs.

With the increases taking effect from December 1, 2006 only time will tell the true impact of this decision.
The Commission’s next decision will be handed down in mid-2007.

Reverse Auction

As an increasing number of customers are shopping online, shop-front retailers can now use the internet to woo customers back into the store, thanks to a new retail-driven reverse auction shopping website.
Smartshopper.com.au is based on a reverse auction, where the consumer inputs the product they’re after and the distance they’re willing to travel for it.

Registered retailers in the relevant area then have one chance to give their best possible price offer within seven days, with the three lowest prices put forward to the shopper.
To accept the retailer’s offer, the ‘SmartShopper’ must go into the store where they’ll receive all the benefits of a retail purchase including warranties, safe payment transactions, product information and personal service, and the retailer gets 100 percent of the sale price.

Retailers wanting to sign up to Smartshopper.com.au will pay an annual subscription that will give them full access to the site’s features.

According to Smartshopper.com.au there are currently more than 8,500 products available on the site across consumer electronics, electrical appliances and white goods. The first phase of the website is Sydney-focused with other states to follow in 2007.

Xmas Trading Hours

Christmas public holiday trading hours for retailers varies significantly between states and territories. For a comprehensive summary of trading hours and restrictions in each state visit www.propertyoz.com.au/scca

Gift & Homewares Retailers

Gift and Homewares Australia (GHA) will stage their biggest trade fair ever at Sydney Olympic Park in February.
This year is a milestone for the industry with GHA celebrating 30 years of trade fairs, which is a timely celebration with the February trade fair featuring approximately 700 exhibitors showcasing the latest in kitchen and dining wares, pamper products, homewares, jewellery and party goods.

The trade fair, running from February 24 to 27, is an industry-only event and businesses must be a registered buyer in the industry to attend. To register, or for more information, visit www.agha.com.au

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