As the Chairman mentioned in last week’s message, we have farewelled CEO Trevor Evans, who has been preselected to contest a seat at the Federal Election on July 2nd. While the National Retail Association is strictly a non-partisan organisation, we do wish Trevor every success. It is important that we have Federal MPs who understand the needs and the challenges of the retail sector, and it would be ideal to have a former CEO of Australia’s largest and most representative retail association in the National Parliament.

For my part, I am very pleased to be given the opportunity to step into Trevor’s (very large) shoes. I’ve had a lengthy career in retail – both in senior management and at the customer face – and I have been a board member here at the NRA for seven years, and the deputy chair for the past two. So I believe I have a good understanding of the issues and priorities for our members, and of the operation of the association.

I look forward to meeting as many members as possible in coming months. I also look forward to working more closely with the very talented and professional personnel across all divisions of the NRA – training, legal, leasing, events and every other aspect of the organisation.

On the subject of the election, it now looks almost certain that the poll will take place on July 2, after the Senate again rejected the Government’s workplace reform legislation. In one sense it will be a relief to retailers to have the date fixed and to remove the destabilising speculation that often comes ahead of an election campaign. On the other hand, however, buyers can tend to go “on strike” in election campaigns, and there is a real danger for retailers with one to follow so soon after the Federal Budget.

You can be assured that your association will make these concerns known to politicians as we engage with them around the country. We’ll be reminding both sides of politics of the importance of being positive about the economy and about our future, in order to instil confidence in consumers in the months ahead.

It’s been a long road back from the aftermath of the financial crisis. And although we have enjoyed steady growth for the last three years, it is still fragile and easily lost. We’ll be making sure the politicians understand their responsibility throughout the Budget and election cycle not to do or say anything that may damage confidence.

Have a great week.

Ian Winterburn, CEO, Deputy Chairperson