Extended trading hours? Nay.

January 10, 2007 7:27 PM

Food court in Garden City, Booragoon, Perth

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:

  1. “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?

  2. “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.

Cafe in Subiaco, Perth

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.

thewest.com.au – Shop union turns on Ripper over retail trading deregulation push
thewest.com.au – Suburban shops pay the price when trading hours are extended: study

Side note: The next time that this is put to the people in a referendum again, I will be able to vote “no”. 🙂

13 thoughts on “Extended trading hours? Nay.

  1. RyeUrn

    Hey MOoiness. Love reading your stuff. Top notch!

    I remembered when I was in Scotland all the shops close at half 5 similarly but the supermarkets are open till late (while some of them like Tescos) for groceries. They also have ‘shopping day’ on Thursdays where they open till half past 7.

    Like you said, no problem with shopping during weekends and on Thursdays.

  2. mooiness Post author

    RyeUrn: thanks for the compliment!

    Scotland’s rules sound like here then. Frankly I don’t see the purported benefits because you can always arrange your schedules to fit.

    JJJ: yes I know you’d disagree. 😉

  3. Rob

    “Do what the locals do after 5:30pm – go dine at a restaurant or have a drink at the pub, or both. ”
    Dude you are so single.
    when you have kids, you always come up with emergency needs that even the most anal guys can’t plan for. currently the choices are i) if the IGA is open then you pay about 15% more. ii) if nothing’s open then shut up and lump it.
    I think the govt is right. to be a world class city you do need to have world class service. that means extended shopping hours, daylight saving etc to bring it up to “basic” world expectations of a big city.
    the fact that the majority in WA (read the state, not necessarily Perth) are against it just points to the fact that we’re not there yet. so we’re still doomed to be the world’s biggest country town and deserve the Dullsville labels.

  4. mooiness Post author

    Rob: We are a small city with a population size less than half that of Melb/Syd. So bigger shops thriving and opening longer hours would mean smaller shops dying – our population size/density cannot sustain them. Losing these small shops mean losing character.

    Also because of the population size, the loss of income of small business owners would not be offset by the supposed increasing spending that may come. Hence the claim that the economy will improve is weak.

    I can compromise with supermarkets and pharmacies opening longer (which we already have btw) but retail shops? Even those in bigger cities like KL/Sg do the bulk of their sales when the sun is up.

    And btw, single people are people too.

    splashmilk: though I’d admit that they stay open for longer every other day. 😉

    An: the other states have longer trading hours now, WA being the only state left not to allow it.

  5. girlstar7

    It’s not only Perth, I noticed that Queensland was the same. I went to stay with some friends up in the GOld Coast and the shops all closed at like 5pm! It is ridiculous! In Melbourne lots of supermarkets are 24 hours and the ones that aren’t close at 10pm at the very earliest.
    Also in Melbourne late night shopping is til midnight, not til 9pm (and at peak times such as Christmas, all night)! 9pm is not late=night shopping!
    I guess you are used to it but if you come from a bigger city like Melbourne or Sydney and are used to going to the shops whenever you feel like it, it can be SO frustrating to find the supermarket is closed at 7:00pm. Fair enough you can do your shopping on weekends but sometimes you need something in an emergency and can’t rush to the shops until the next day.
    THank GOd I don’t live in Perth, cause I was getting shitty after one week in Queensland with all the bloody shops closed so early. We may as well go backto the 50s when everything was closed on Sundays!!

  6. jktdo

    It’s the same here in Melbourne as well. I’m too broke to shop so it’s not too big of a deal for me. We only have crazy shopping days during the Christmas period. Even then not all shops are open and close for a period of 2 weeks or so.

    I may complain that there is nothing to do at night, but in reality, I go out mostly at night with friends getting up to our usual mischief. We make do and have fun together because we are together, not because of what we do together.

    Great entry, made me think, thanks =)

  7. mooiness Post author

    girlstar7: as I’ve said, it’s about population size/density. You can’t compare Perth to Syd or Melb. Though I’m interested to see how Adelaide go with their experiment. Perhaps their population density is higher even though they have less people.

    Plus I’m a bit biased because I know what it feels like to be a small business owner.

    jktdo: Exactly. The shops may open 24 hours but how often would a person go out for those emergency needs? Even then, there’s 24-hour convenience stores and petrol stations.

    I can also understand longer opening hours, even 24 hours during the weekends. But weekdays too? It just isn’t necessary.

  8. Yuuka

    This might sound simplistic but maybe that`s why we shouldn`t be so stingy with migrants? Then the population to land mass ratio won`t be so horribly taxing on the logistics side and we can all be happy-ish.


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