Sunday trade deemed ‘inevitable'

IT had all the ingredients for a conflict – a passionate subject matter, close to 100 people with opposing views and a microphone being passed around.

Instead the seven-day trading forum at the RSL Kings Theatre on Monday night was a mostly peaceful, if sometimes animated, affair.

The five expert panellists appeared to have the audience stumped after their comprehensive introductions on many facets of seven-day trading, from industrial relations to the legal implications to who can and cannot open.

But Mayor Ron Bellingham stepped in with the question of the night, who exactly is not allowed to open on a Sunday in Warwick currently?

Independent retailers with less than 20 employees on the floor in one shop or less than 60 across more than one shop are already allowed to trade on Sundays.

This means the seven-day trading debate in Warwick effectively boils down to the large non-exempt organisations like Big W, Woolworths and BI-LO wanting to open on the Sabbath.

And National Retail Association (NRA) director of corporate services Jed Moore, who appeared to have all the answers for most the night, could do nothing but agree with that.

“The experience from our members is that Sundays are a profitable trading day,” Mr Moore said.

“I completely understand that there are managers and owner-operators that prefer not to trade on Sundays.

“If we look at the net benefit, it is quite clear there is a net benefit.”

The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) will in early October decide whether or not to grant non-exempt retail businesses in Warwick the option to trade on Sundays.

The point for the evening was to put as much information into the community as possible about seven-day trading and for the Warwick Chamber of Commerce to help decide its position on the controversial issue.

The application to the QIRC for Warwick to have Sunday trading was made by the NRA and includes Dalby.

The application affects only Warwick and no other towns on the Southern Downs – even though this would have minimal impact as most of the businesses in Stanthorpe, Inglewood, Allora and Killarney would all be non-exempt and allowed to trade on Sunday.

Warwick Chamber of Commerce president John Randall said they would now continue researching in the community before coming up with a position hopefully by its meeting next month.

“Our polling, which has to be presented, will poll every affected business,” Mr Randall said, who added that the retail industry in Warwick employed more than 1200 people.

Toowoomba Chamber of Commerce president Geoff McDonald was one of the panellists and told the audience that in the six weeks since seven-day trading was introduced in the Garden City, the response from businesses had been very mixed.

He said his printing business opened on the first Sunday, but only sold $7.70 worth of stock so had not opened since.

But on the other hand Mr McDonald said K-Mart Plaza and Grand Central had enjoyed record weekends since seven-day trading kicked off, with Grand Central recording more than 15,000 people through each Sunday bar one since it began.

However he said Westridge had reported a 50 per cent drop in sales since it kicked off – and the centre's biggest day used to be Sundays.

Mr McDonald said Sunday trading in Warwick was inevitable.

“In five or 10 years time everyone will be trading every day by their own choice, and that's the key, by their own choice,” he said.

This was a sentiment echoed by Rose City Shoppingworld centre manager Jason Gard – who also said the centre would be powerless to force its tenants to open on Sundays should Warwick non-exempt shops be allowed to trade seven days.

He said all seven-day trading would do in Warwick was give the handful of non-exempt shops the option to trade on Sundays if they wished and give consumers more choice.

“We see it as a benefit for the shopping centre, and for Warwick,” Mr Gard said.

The Southern Downs Regional Council will also have the opportunity to appear before the QIRC in early October.

If you would like to have your say about seven day trading, business-related comments can be made at www.info@warwickcommerce.com.au and community-related comments can be made at www.econdev@southerndowns.qld.gov.au



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