Independent grocers say a report recommending further deregulation of retail trading hours in Western Australia will be a “catastrophe” for small business.
The Economic Regulation Authority (ERA) conducted an inquiry into microeconomic reform in WA to improve productivity, and the report was tabled in parliament on Monday.
It recommended retail trading hours be deregulated, with the exception of Christmas Day, Anzac Day morning and Good Friday – similar to the models in Victoria and Tasmania.
“Consumer choice, rather than government regulation, should determine which shops open and when,” the report said.
“Small retailers have already adapted to substantial liberalisation of trading hours in Western Australia, and the structural adjustments that would arise from full deregulation are not anticipated to be as significant.”
But WA Independent Grocers Association president John Cummings said if the recommendation was adopted it would see national retail chains “sweep away” small retailers under a “one-size-fits-all” model.
Mr Cummings said it was wrong to suggest all retail marketplaces and consumers in WA were identical regardless of whether they were in the city, suburbs or country towns.
He said the winners would be national shopping centre chains, while the small and medium sized retailers would struggle, especially in regional areas where there were fewer resources to compete against the chains.
Independent research into the effects of existing trading hours proved current weeknight and Sunday trading was already harming small retailers, Mr Cummings said.
The study, conducted for IGA grocers, showed most small retailers suffered reduced profits and sales since the introduction of weeknight and Sunday trading in 2010 and 2012.
The survey revealed almost 60 per cent of small retailers suffered falls in profits, while almost one third reported nothing had changed, Mr Cummings said.