Hold Back The Tide


A measure of just how much some union officials are out of touch is the current mass media advertising campaign being conducted by the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association in Western Australia.

In essence, it is a personal attack on the West Australian Premier, Colin Barnett, and his legislative initiatives to extend and deregulate retail trading hours.

The union contends that the major beneficiaries will be national and global trading entities, to the detriment of local small businesses and their employees. For some, continuing practices whose genesis dates from the 1950s seems relevant. However, there is no recognition, nor respect for the needs and expectations of contemporary consumers.

Retention of restricted trading hours will doubtless, and inevitably, be a prime cause of job losses and business failures.

As more consumers visit on-line channels and transact purchases, business owners need to satisfy demands, lest they cede (rather than lose) revenue to on-line operators.

A recent national study of 1800 adult Australians reveals the criteria applied in the choice of on-line purchases:

· I can shop when I want 71
· It’s easy to compare 56
· Greater choice 53
· Home deliveries 52
· Lower prices 49

Convenience is the common factor in the first four nominated criteria. Therefore, bricks and mortar retailers which restrict trading hours will progressively become irrelevant, inconvenient and unattractive. Natural consequences will be reduced sales, squeezed profits and less need for staff members.

Little wonder then that union membership in the private sector has collapsed to around 12% of the target workforces.

The fundamental issue is choice. Those business owners who choose to maintain restricted trading hours will quickly witness their established and longstanding clients migrating to on-line sources (which are available 24/7), and to competitors which choose to offer the convenience and service of extended trading hours.

Price -competitiveness, range, brand and in-store customer service will be secondary considerations.

That is the inconvenient truth.

Barry Urquhart
Retail Analyst
Marketing Focus



Barry Urquhart, MD Marketing Focus, Perth, is the author of Australia's top two selling books on customer service and is an internationally recognised authority on consumer behaviour and creative visual marketing.

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