Five-year trading transition plan call

Toby HusseyAlbany Advertiser
Albany Plaza closes most Sundays during the year.
Camera IconAlbany Plaza closes most Sundays during the year.

A former Albany Chamber of Commerce and Industry head has called for a five-year transition plan to deregulated trading, warning Albany’s Sunday trade rules were stifling growth.

Graham Harvey was the ACCI’s chief executive from 2007 to 2013 and said Albany’s current trading regulations, which do not permit many retailers with more than 18 employees to open on Sundays most of the year, were stifling growth in tourism and business.

Mr Harvey said about 65 businesses could not open because of Albany’s Sunday trading rules, including major stores Woolworths and Kmart, which also impacts small stores that share shopping centres with major retailers.

Most small businesses, meanwhile, can operate seven days a week.

Mr Harvey said the chamber, the City of Albany and tourism and business leaders should collaborate on a long-term plan to deregulate trading hours.

He proposed that could start with extending weekday opening hours for big businesses to 7pm.

“Why Coles and Woolworths have to close at 6pm during the week is so ... draconian,” he said.

“A five-year plan...would give plenty of time for those who will no doubt be negatively affected time to transition.”

Former ACCI chief executive Graham Harvey in 2016.
Camera IconFormer ACCI chief executive Graham Harvey in 2016. Credit: Tayler Neale

Mr Harvey, who no longer represents the ACCI, warned companies including Aldi would not be attracted to Albany until rules were relaxed.

He was one of three former ACCI presidents or chief executives to have served since 2008 who have recently supported deregulating trading publicly.

Former president Gary Cutler (2008-11) told the Albany Advertiser he believed “any business” should be able to open when they choose, while former interim chief executive Michael Clark (2018-19) said online this month that relaxing Sunday trading rules “would get more people staying and spending money” in Albany.

However, not all recent ACCI leaders supported changing the status quo.

Cameron Bergsma, ACCI president from 2015 to 2016, said he believed deregulation would hurt many existing small businesses.

“It simply stretches out the money spent over a longer period of time,” he said.

“If I go out on any given weekend, I can get food supplies, I can go out for a meal, drink, and buy clothes.

“Deregulated trading . . . would actually be detrimental to many small businesses.”

Responding to Mr Clark online last week, ACCI vice-president Russell Hare said the focus should be to help small businesses open on Sundays.

“We need a proactive strategy to encourage these cafes and small stores to open. (The public does) not realise that they can open now, but choose not to,” he said.

The ACCI is currently investigating the pros and cons of deregulated trading in regional centres, and its potential impact on Albany.

ACCI president Benita Cattalini said her organisation’s research was considering the impact of deregulation “locally, regionally, nationally and internationally”.

“Research shows deregulated trading can have a positive and negative impact . . . (which may help) customers and community in the short term, but not in the long term,” she said.

Former ACCI presidents Trevor Kosh, Rod Hedderwick and Caroline Hayes were contacted for this story, as was former chief executive Russ Clark.

Each declined to comment.

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