The retail trade figures for July released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics this week showed that the industry enjoyed a solid start to the financial year. I’m always aware that these figures vary from state to state and sector to sector, but on the whole it was encouraging to see the 3.5 per cent increase in turnover, compared with the same time last year. We also saw a national trend estimate rise of 0.3 per cent in July, which is closely in line with the 0.4 per cent increases recorded in May and June of 2017. I expect these figures to pick up as we head towards Christmas.
In trend terms, we saw a rise in every state and territory across the country, with Tasmania recording the largest rise with 0.5 per cent. The figures come off the back of the Reserve Bank of Australia on Tuesday opting to keep interest rates on hold at a record low of 1.5 per cent. As you are well aware, it is important that consumer confidence is strong as we head into the important pre-Christmas shopping period, and the decision to maintain the low interest rate will certainly help to foster that.
At a Government level, the changes to the Fair Work Act known as the “Protecting Vulnerable Workers” Bill were finally passed through both Houses of Federal Parliament this week, after much debate and some amendments moved by the Senate crossbenchers.
The NRA has already made known its concerns about these changes, so I won’t go over old ground again. What I will say is that these changes carry with them serious penalties for franchisors and holding companies responsible for certain contraventions of the Act by their franchisees or subsidiaries “where they knew or ought reasonably to have known of the contraventions and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent them”. And they give the Fair Work Ombudsman evidence-gathering powers similar to those available to corporate regulators such as the Australian Securities and Investment Commission or the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
The NRA has been working closely with members who are likely to be affected by these changes and we will continue to help members to understand their new responsibilities and ensure they are complying. If you have any concerns about what these changes may mean in your business, please don’t risk the very large fines that will result from breaches. Make sure you contact us for advice.
Still on the regulatory front, the Queensland Parliament this week passed legislation banning light-weight, single-use plastic shopping bags will be banned in Queensland as of July 2018. Queensland will be the third Australian state to phase-out plastic bags after South Australia implemented the ban in 2009 and Tasmania followed suit in 2013.
The NRA is working closely with the Queensland Government to help retailers plan for the ban. We have rolled out an information campaign featuring state-wide education workshops and a website providing valuable information to ensure the retail industry is prepared for the transition. Retailers who operate in Queensland should head to www.qldbagban.com.au to prepare yourselves for the impending ban.
Have a great week ahead.
Dominique Lamb, CEO.