Retail Voice CEO Message: 3 April 2024

I hope you and your teams have experienced a successful Easter trading period. Whilst the holiday break is expected to deliver something of , overall Australians continue to cut back as the cost-of-living pressures influence consumer spending.

According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data last week, retail sales in Australia saw a modest increase of 1.6% in February compared to the same month last year.

Any growth is mostly being fuelled by the Australian population increases of 2.5% across the past year. A more detailed breakdown and our response .

The Federal Budget is now just over a month away, and the ARA has been advocating for key measures in our budget submission – with 22 recommendations against five focus areas, to foster a strong retail sector, a productive workforce, inclusive workplaces and experiences, sustainable business practices and safety and resilience.

For our community, there are continued supply chain challenges and labour shortages, retail crime impacts, wages continue to increase, and interest rates are all having an impact – with a lag effect stretching far and beyond.

Despite these challenges, it’s important to remain solutions focused. Key recommendations include investment in circular economy infrastructure, sustainability outcomes, expanding the small business tax rate to include businesses with revenue up to $100 million, maintaining the Work Bonus for pensioners and extending the Skills Checkpoint program. We have also called for nationalising key legislative areas such as creating a national taskforce to tackle single-use plastics, appointing a Supply Chain Commissioner and developing a Retail Disaster Response and Recovery Framework. You will find our budget submission .

The ARA has also last week  to the 2023-24 Annual Wage Review continuing its principles-based approach, using the underlying rate of inflation and projected inflation as a significant guide in our recommendation for an increase of 3.1%.

The ARA supports a sustainable increase to the minimum wage that will help workers keep pace with the rising cost of living. However, any wage increase must also be sustainable for businesses in the current economic environment and take into account the impact of the Stage Three Tax Cuts.

Central to our submission is the principle that any increase in the minimum wage that exceeds inflation must be supported by productivity gains to help employers offset higher costs.

In our recent application to vary the General Retail Industry Award, we outlined some of those opportunities to improve flexibility alongside other changes to remove complexity and confusion. This includes changes to the award that provide clarity for multi-site retailers who regularly trade extended hours.

We are delighted that the Fair Work Commission endorsed these changes to Clause 15.2 earlier today, with support from the SDA and other employer groups, and we are hopeful that the goodwill demonstrated by all parties to secure this change will continue through the remainder of the ARA’s application process

As always, our membership team is here to help if you need any assistance, so don’t hesitate to reach out via email or on 1300 368 041.
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