There are just 12 days left in the Federal Election campaign, and I think all Australians – including the politicians – are well and truly ready to see the end of it. Regardless of which side you support, we know that these events can have a disproportionate impact on consumer sentiment and business purchasing. I am hopeful that the usual election-time downturn in consumer activity might be offset by the timing of this election very early in the new fiscal year. That is to say, hopefully the usual end-of-financial-year splurge by businesses will offset any election-driven downturn. We will watch closely when the ABS sales figures for this month are released in early August.
Regardless of which side wins Government on Saturday next week, it will be critical that they immediately set about bolstering consumer confidence and establishing a trading environment that supports business owners in hiring new staff and investing in stock and equipment.
The employment figures released last Thursday showed there were 18,700 people in training for the nation’s sales workforce at the end of last year, compared with 22,800 in the previous year. While not all sales training will be directly related to the retail industry, that reduction of 4100 people in training is still nonetheless concerning for our sector. This is partly because reduced levels of training will impact on the future skills base of our business, but mostly because investment in training points to the mindset of business owners, and their optimism for the future.
And that’s why a strong and stable political outcome after the election is so critical for the retail sector. It has now been more than a decade since a democratically-elected leader in Australia has managed to serve out his or her first term. The problem with this is that the turmoil and uncertainty infests the population and business community as well.
So when the 45th Parliament gets underway after July 2, let’s hope the Prime Minister manages to survive the full three years, and that the Government is able to set out – and implement – a clear and coherent plan for the nation’s future. All businesses and their workers need this outcome, especially in retail.
I hope you have a productive week.
Ian Winterburn, Deputy Chairman & Acting CEO