Written on the 24 October 2011


AS minimum shifts for secondary school students are reduced to just 1.5 hours, economist Frank Gelber (pictured) says it’s not so bad in the the retail sector.

Speaking at a BIS Shrapnel business forecasting event, Gelber says although retailers are ‘screaming bloody murder’ and that ‘it’s the end of the world as they know it’, this isn’t the case.

“I suspect the retail situation isn’t really as bad as retailers are saying it is,” he says.

“They’ve just got fixed in their minds the very strong growth and high margins of the last decade. They’ve lost the strong growth and so they haven’t got the growth in profitability but their profitability is still high because their margins are high – they just haven’t got the growth.

“We’ve been looking for the dreadful retail conditions to result in sales which will cut their margins, but we haven’t seen that yet. Retail is actually ok, largely because a large part of retail is imported and by keeping their prices low, their costs are low and they can still give us sale items.”

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has welcomed a decision to dismiss a union appeal to reduce minimum shifts.

“We welcome this decision as the first step to introducing some flexibility in working arrangements and improving productivity in the retail workplace,” says executive director Russell Zimmerman.

“ARA now believes its incumbent on Fair Work Australia and the Federal Government to look at other issues in the retail award including archaic weekend penalty rate structures.

“Fair Work Australia has made a logical decision that means shifts between the end of school and close of business are safe and available for students who want to get their first experience in the workforce - this is a win-win situation for students and retailers.

“Since the previous three-hour minimum shift requirement under the modern retail award came into play on January 1 2010, retailers across the country have been forced to deny after school work to thousands of students employed in the sector. Retailers and industry associations have advocated for a ruling to save student jobs since the first applications were made in March last year.”






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