The re-elected Turnbull Government has this week shown a dawning awareness of the real challenges confronting the Australian economy, with a number of MPs drawing attention to unemployment and faltering economic conditions, particularly in regional areas.
For the retail sector, the difficult trading conditions in some market segments were highlighted by the collapse of two major homewares chains based in Queensland – the Far Pavilions and Peter Baker Finch chains. These follow the failure of the Laura Ashley and Earthborn chains earlier in the year. Homewares stores fall clearly into the category of discretionary consumer spending, and these results are a clear indication of the soft consumer sentiment that has existed throughout 2016.
This was underlined by the recent ABS retail trade statistics for May, which showed growth in turnover of just 0.2 per cent in trend terms – at best a flat or slightly negative result when population growth is taken into account. This translated year-on-year growth of just 3.3 per cent, when compared with May 2015. And that confirmed six straight months of declining growth figures, from a peak of 4.01 per cent in November 2015.
What all of this means for the Government and the new Parliament is that consumer confidence needs to be a priority. Clearly the Government will face challenges in passing its legislative program through the Senate, but politicians on all sides need to be aware of the importance of send a strong, clear signal to businesses and consumers. Three years of stalemate in the Senate will not help to fix the problems that are beginning to trouble our nation’s leaders. The NRA will make this issue a priority when engaging with both State and Federal Government.
On a more positive note, it was an honour for me recently to be appointed as CEO of the National Retail Association, and entrusted with the organisation’s 100-year traditional of fighting for the needs of businesses. The needs of businesses are too often overlooked and I am eager to ensure that the NRA continues to ensure the voices of our members are heard, especially in the fight to minimise costs in an increasingly regulated environment.
Thank-you to the many members who have written supportive and welcoming emails this week. I’ve already had the pleasure of dealing with many members in my previous position as Principal of the Association’s law firm, NRA Legal, and I will continue to be closely involved in the legal side of the organisation, as I am passionate about the rights of employers.
I look forward to working with the new Principal of NRA Legal, and I believe that together we will add to the NRA’s credentials as the nation’s leading provider of employment law services specifically for the retail sector. Importantly, the NRA continues to be the only retail industry association with its own in-house law firm. This means that as a member of the NRA, your sensitive and important legal matters remain within your association and are not outsourced to a third party law firm.
I also plan to continue the open-door policy for members that was the hallmark of my predecessor Trevor Evans. I’m always happy to hear from you about the issues that matter to you. If there is anything I can assist you with, please do not hesitate to give me a call or request a meeting. I look forward to hearing your suggestions and comments in relation to the NRA and really focusing on what it is we can do to assist you with your business’s needs. I look forward to meeting more members in the months ahead, and to working with you to build a stronger and more successful retail sector.
I hope you have a productive week,
Dominique Lamb, CEO