Bank of Queensland owner Gary Kelly
Bank of Queensland owner Gary Kelly

Sunday trade fans "market thugs"

THE final day of the seven-day trading hearing thrust Warwick’s Supa IGA – which opens on a Sunday – to the forefront of the debate while another businessman labelled the big guns like Woolworths and Big W in strong support of the move “market thugs”.

In his closing submission Southern Downs Mayor Ron Bellingham recognised the impact the store had on local traders and Rose City Shoppingworld, but warned against it being used as a “catalyst” for extending trading hours.

Caltex on Wallace owner Andrea Bushman gave evidence at yesterday’s hearing to oppose the introduction of seven-day trading in Warwick as she said it would seriously impact her business.

She told the Industrial Relations Commission since the new Supa IGA opened, her sales had decreased by 30 to 40 per cent.

Supa IGA Warwick manager Jason Franklin and a representative of the Hyslop group, which owns the Warwick store and a number of IGAs, were grilled over the impact the shop was having on other retailers and on whether the supermarket should be legitimately considered as an independent retailer.

Mr Franklin said, should the major supermarkets be granted the right to open on a Sunday, he may have to reduce his staff numbers from between 15 and 20.

Deputy President Swan said, “It’s an interesting scenario. You have a small trader in effect saying you moved in and captured a large share of the market on a Sunday. You don’t have a competitor and you want to hold that trade.”

The application to allow Sunday trading in Warwick was made by the National Retail Association (NRA) and is primarily opposed by the Queensland Retail Traders Shopkeepers Association (QRTSA). The two-day Industrial Relations Commission hearing was held in the Toowoomba Magistrates Court.

National Association of Retail Grocers Australia (NARGA) Chief Executive Kenneth Henrich conceded after questioning by the NRA’s Jed Moore many retailers were disadvantaged by the current restrictions but added, “having a large 5000-square-metre Coles or Woolworths was different to having a 1000-square-metre IGA”.

He also conceded that a huge proportion, possibly 85 to 90 per cent of the population of Australia have seven-day trading, but “the fact they have access to it doesn’t mean it’s of benefit”.

Warwick Toyworld owner Peter Tansky and Warwick Bank of Queensland owner Gary Kelly appeared as witnesses to oppose the application.

MR Kelly caused a stir with Commissioner Thompson for describing the big businesses as “market thugs”.

“Is that reasonable?” the Commissioner asked.

In closing, the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association chose not to oppose the application, but asked the commission just to consider writing into its decision if approved that workers will not be forced to work on Sunday.

Councillor Bellingham then made his submission on behalf of the Southern Downs Regional Council, which he said had responded to the general community’s opinion.

“Warwick is a regional shopping centre in its own right. It’s grown in recent times to have a significant economic impact throughout our region,” he said.

“The Rose City Shoppingworld is a significant part of that and is highly valued.”

He said there needed to be a balance between the community and commercial enterprises and that this was a “conservative community”.

Cr Bellingham added that he understood the impact of Supa IGA being allowed to open on a Sunday but that council was concerned about potential flow-on to Stanthorpe, Killarney and Allora should seven-day trading be rolled out.

Chamber of Commerce president John Randall gave his full support to the NRA application and said the Chamber entered the debate with an “open mind”, but after its research he was confident they had reached the right decision.

Mr Randall then expressed disappointment with the number of retailers surveyed by the Chamber who had opposed seven-day trading but had not participated in the hearing.

“Out of the 109 people we actively engaged with and surveyed, the Chamber is disappointed only one person was present.”

He concluded that the Chamber believes seven-day trading was in the best interests of the Warwick economy.

The NRA will make a written submission by October 22 with the QRTSA providing its written submission by the end of November.

Deputy President Swan said, with a great number of trading hours cases before the commission at present, it could be a number of weeks before they are able to make a decision.

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