Monday, 22 May 2017

1984: Introduction of Saturday afternoon retail trading

Older readers would recall well the days when shops were required to shut at noon on a Saturday and in shops and shopping centres across the city, the battle was on to get the shopping done in the morning.

I would love those readers to share their stories of those battles.

By the 1980's however, retailers had found loop holes in trading law that had allowed them to trade seven days a week provided that they were a "small" business. However if a major retailer sold identical goods on a Sunday, they could be fined. Shoppers wanted more time to shop as well.

Electrical and furniture stores like Harvey Norman, Joyce Mayne and Norman Ross were trading on Saturday afternoons and Sundays, yet were not subject to prosecution under state law. However if Grace Bros, Waltons or David Jones opened during those hours, they would be prosecuted.

This was used by the unions to oppose further extensions to trading hours.

In 1983, the State Government passed legislation to allow all retailers to trade on a Saturday afternoon along with a second evening of late night trading during the week. It was proposed to be implemented from February 1984, but it was not until August that retailers were allowed to trade on Saturday afternoons.

The winners from extended trading hours were:

  • Shoppers - No need to rush on a Saturday to complete their shopping. They could take their time to purchase, but also have more options.
  • Major retailers - Opportunities to earn more income, even if it meant that the costs of operating stores were higher.
The losers were:
  • Retail workers - Unions argued that workers would lose time to spend with their families and even threaten full time jobs. From an employment perspective however, there would be scope for more jobs to be created. Longer hours would increase demand for labour.
  • Small businesses - With fewer employees, small businesses like corner shops could trade on Saturday afternoons and Sundays without competition from the big retailers.
The Sydney Morning Herald wrote a feature following the first weekend of Saturday afternoon trading in August 1984, and for small businesses it wasn't a good day. Shoppers seemed happy though.

Source: Hill, R. 1984. "Big stores happy, but not the small shops". The Sydney Morning Herald, August 13, 3. 

However one exception was David Jones, who decided to introduce Saturday afternoon trading from the following Saturday (August 18).

With retailers allowed to trade all day Saturday, the push would soon be on for trading on Sundays.