Deregulation on the agenda: Mandurah's retail trading hours questioned

The issue of deregulating retail trading hours in Mandurah has reared its head again after local leaders and state politicians recently spoke out about the topic.

Deregulating local hours would allow stores to stay open until 9pm - three hours later than the current enforced closing time.

The retail industry currently stands as Mandurah's largest employer, generating more than 20 per cent of the city's total employment, however, Mandurah's retail trading hours are among the most restricted in Western Australia.

While the Shire of Murray fully deregulated trading hours in 2012, the City of Mandurah's hours are currently partially deregulated to allow a seven-day trading regime.

South Metropolitan Region Aaron Stonehouse was the first to voice his concerns in parliament on June 26.

"Shopping hours need to be standardised across the state. It is the job of the present government to tackle that," he said.

"The minister [for commerce] needs to take a long hard look at this issue and there is nowhere better for him to start than the ludicrous lines drawn on maps that mean that one suburb's residents can shop while another's are unnecessarily penalised.

"I urge this house to listen to the people of Western Australia and, once and for all, let people shop when they want to."

However, Peel Chamber of Commerce and Industry general manager Andrew McKerrell disagreed with the politician, arguing that retail trading hour regulation was "a big issue" and "incredibly complicated".

Peel Chamber of Commerce and Industry general manager Andrew McKerrell said, despite the potential for extended trading hours to provide more employment, in the current economic climate it would likely have more of a negative impact on jobs. Photo: Mandurah Mail.

Peel Chamber of Commerce and Industry general manager Andrew McKerrell said, despite the potential for extended trading hours to provide more employment, in the current economic climate it would likely have more of a negative impact on jobs. Photo: Mandurah Mail.

"Mr. Stonehouse's statement is disappointing as it doesn't address, or even acknowledge, the real problem we as community, and broader society, are facing," he said.

"Whilst the concept of deregulation can appeal to many of us, the impact and economic repercussions of extended trade must be considered."

Mr McKerrell said while big national and multi-national franchises like Woolworths and Coles could afford to stay open late, smaller stores and locally owned businesses could not.

"Extending trade will offer shoppers more time to access products and services from our retail sector, however with an increase in trading hours also comes in increase in overheads and operating costs. These increases must be met with significantly increased turnover and patronage in order to ensure financial viability," he said.

The question is, if the retail businesses are open for extra three hours per day, will the community's discretionary spend increase to match this? Will you have an extra three hours worth of money to spend in those shops? The simple answer is no.

Peel Chamber of Commerce and Industry general manager Andrew McKerrell

"The question is, if the retail businesses are open for extra three hours per day, will the community's discretionary spend increase to match this? Will you have an extra three hours worth of money to spend in those shops? The simple answer is no.

"Given the current local and national economic environment, families are looking at tightening their weekly budgets, not increasing them. They are still going to spend the same amount per week, regardless of if the shops are open at night or not."

Mr McKerrell also added, despite the potential for extended trading hours to provide more employment, in the current economic climate it would likely have more of a negative impact on jobs.

"How can a small retailer sustain an increase in costs and overheads? They can't, forcing them to reduce their costs and this reduction will begin with the business' largest cost - staffing," he said.

"I am yet to see hard evidence from a similar locality to Mandurah showing an increase in trading hours will result in an increase in employment. This is not a sustainable solution to addressing unemployment.

"Based on my research and consultation, a time for a deregulated trading environment will come. However, based on the current state of our economy, now is not the time."

Just like with any issue, if the community I have the privilege of representing wants something, I will fight hard to get it.

Dawesville MP Zak Kirkup

Mr Stonehouse singled out Dawesville MP Zak Kirkup in his comments, questioning the whereabouts of the local member who he said was "usually very vocable and visible".

"Given that his own constituents in Mandurah stand to gain the most from a level playing field approach to shopping hours, he has been surprisingly silent," Mr Stonehouse said.

"He is a young guy and should be vigorous enough to fight in their corner but it seems that, when it comes to retail trading restrictions, he has been told by his new boss to clock off early."

However, Mr Kirkup said local residents had not informed him that deregulating retail trading hours was a "priority for them".

"If Mr Stonehouse actually had any interest in Mandurah, he would know that residents are more concerned about Peel Health Campus, local crime or the increases in cost of living which are hurting people in our community," he said.

"Just like with any issue, if the community I have the privilege of representing wants something, I will fight hard to get it."

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As a regional local government, the City of Mandurah is responsible for deciding on trading hours after thorough community consultation.

Despite a number of discussions in the past that suggest a high level of support for the expansion of trading hours, it is not the first time the council have had to address the issue of extended trading hours recently.

In October 2018, the city decided to keep its Christmas trading hours the same as the past holiday period, after a push to adopt similar times to those in Perth divided councillors but was ultimately blocked by local government.

Questions were raised again regarding the subject at a recent council meeting on June 25 when city officers proposed a motion to analyse the economic and social impact of the change.

Councillors voted unanimously to undertake a community and business consultation process to determine the community's views on retail trading in Mandurah.

Mandurah mayor Rhys Williams said there were "really mixed feelings in the community" on the topic of deregulating retail trading hours. Photo: Supplied.

Mandurah mayor Rhys Williams said there were "really mixed feelings in the community" on the topic of deregulating retail trading hours. Photo: Supplied.

Mandurah mayor Rhys Williams said there were "really mixed feelings in the community" but the city would endeavour to find a solution that took everyone's opinion into account.

"What we're doing is going out and getting the business community's view and also doing some economic analysis on expanded trading hours and whether or not that's best for this community," he said.

"Lots of our partnering local governments have got different trading hours to ours so the exploration is about whether or not we align with the metropolitan or whether we remain different, and the analysis will inform us of that.

"We're hoping to have the analysis underway shortly and that any decision that is going to be in place, if there's going to be a change, will take place from the end of the year but we need to wait and see what the analysis tells us before we make any decisions."

Mandurah MP David Templeman threw his support behind extended trading hours that align with the metropolitan region and said he backed "any endeavours to increase jobs for local people in Mandurah".

"A great deal of our Mandurah-based workforce continue to travel outside of the city for work and, as a result, these people have less time during the week to shop given the limited trading hours," he said.

"Therefore, I support the idea that council consider extended trading hours. Extended hours will also create opportunities for young people to access casual hours outside of school times.

"Additionally, I believe a strong 'buy local' campaign accompanying an extension of trading hours in our region, would encourage the community to understand how important it is to local businesses and our local economy to 'buy local'."