Australian Retailers Association celebrates 120 years

Australia’s oldest, largest and most diverse national retail body, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) proudly celebrates its 120-year anniversary this week.

To commemorate, the ARA has launched a year-long campaign which includes a special anniversary logo, and a video series featuring conversations with ARA members speaking to the ARA’s importance and impact.

ARA CEO Paul Zahra said the ARA represents a $400 billion sector that employs 1.4 million Australians and has gone through many iterations over the years to become the contemporary organisation it is today, representing retailers large and small from food to fashion, hairdressing to hardware and everything in between.

“This 120 anniversary is a significant milestone – particularly given the turbulent circumstances of the past few years. The pandemic tried and tested our resilience as a sector and the ARA and its members have come out of that period stronger than ever, ready for another decade of challenge and opportunity,” he said.

Mr Zahra said retail’s influence on Australia’s economic and social fortunes has never been greater.

“Retail is our largest private sector employer, and we are proud to represent a sector which touches the daily lives of every Australian. During the pandemic, our retail workforce was critical to this country’s national wellbeing and under the ARA’s leadership our community rose to that occasion with great diligence.

“In the decade ahead, retail is crucial to the outcome of many issues of national importance – from the great disruptor of climate change to improved diversity, equality and inclusion outcomes for working women in particular. These issues are central to our growth strategy at the ARA and our members are already making excellent progress, which we look forward to sharing with the broader community in the year ahead.”

Milestones in the ARAs history

Below are the key milestones in the ARAs history. The ARA’s full history can be found here.

1903: Master Retailers Association of NSW formed 

1910: Master Grocers Association joined Master Retailers Association of NSW  

1921: Name changed to the Retail Traders’ Association of New South Wales  

1940: Australian Council of Retailers formed

1943: First Australian Council of Retailers annual conference held in Melbourne 

1974: Australian Council of Retailers becomes the Australian Retailers Association

1989: Australian Retailers Association becomes the Retail Traders Association of Australia

1991: The Retail Traders Association of Australia becomes the Retail Council of Australia

1995: The Retail Institute is established – a Registered Training Organisation

1998: Heads of Agreement from state associations signed to amalgamate into the Australian Retailers Association

2004: Australian Retailers Association approved as a registered organisation under the Workplace Relations Act  

2006: State divisions abolished, and the Australian Retailers Association becomes a national body  

2020: Australian Retailers Association acquires the Hair and Beauty Industry Association. The former members of Australian National Retailers Associations (Retail Council) join the Australian Retailers Association

2022: National Footwear Association merges with the Australian Retailers Association

2023: The Australian Association for Floral Designers (AAFD) merges with the Australian Retailers Association. In 2023, the Australian Retailers Association celebrates 120 years of informing, advocating, educating and unifying the Australian retail industry

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