This may be peculiar to people who’ve never been to or lived in Perth, and it is one of the bigger complaints from tourists and that is:
All the shops close at 5:30pm?! What?
Then a local would say self-satisfyingly,
Well, we have late night shopping up to 9pm on Thursdays in the suburbs, and Fridays in the city. Plus since about 15 years ago, city shops are also now opened on Sundays. We never had that you know.
Outsiders scratch their heads over this, and state politicians pressured by big corporations argued about this on and off even after a referendum on this issue was defeated in 2005.
I’m here to say that I don’t support extended trading hours for Western Australia. Firstly, the two main advantages usually mentioned are not convincing to me:
- “Convenience for working parents and ability to shop after normal working hours” – I have to ask, “How many of you would think of shopping right after work?” I’m usually tired and want to go home immediately. As for essentials, I do my groceries once a week, either on Thursday nights or on Saturdays. Banking can be done online or during lunch hours if need be. Bills can also be paid online, or at the post-office on Saturday mornings.
As for the tourists? Do what the locals do after 5:30pm – go dine at a restaurant or have a drink at the pub, or both. Then go watch a movie or go to the casino. Seriously, they didn’t come all the way here just to shop right? If so, why can’t they shop during the day?
- “Increased spending would benefit the economy” – I don’t think extra shopping hours would necessarily increase people’s spending. There may be a temporary boost in the beginning but it will taper down to the original level because people will still have the same amount of disposable income.
Second, as a former small business owner I understand the pressures well. Although I was not in retail, I can sympathised going into competition with big chain stores. The big stores want to and can afford to open their stores longer, and hire more staff for it. Small businesses? Not so easily.
Most are family-owned and have a small number of staff. Paying overtime is expensive. And if family members work at the shop all the time, wouldn’t this reduce their quality time? Isn’t quality family time ostensibly one of the benefits of longer trading hours?
Sure, the smaller shops can maintain their normal hours. Though that will mean losing sales to the big stores which stay open. The smaller shops would close down and all you have left would be the big stores, which irrevocably changes the nature of the neighbourhood.
In the end, the big companies win because they’ve killed all their smaller competitors. I understand it’s a capitalist society but at what social costs? Western Australia may be the only state in the country with such peculiar trading regulations but I appreciate the character and balance of life that arise from them.
Why my sudden interest in this? It’s in the news again.
Side note: The next time that this is put to the people in a referendum again, I will be able to vote “no”. 🙂