Rigters Supermarket Group boss disappointed with extended trading

Francesca MannGeraldton Guardian
Rigters Supermarkets Geraldton chief executive Kyme Rigter.
Camera IconRigters Supermarkets Geraldton chief executive Kyme Rigter. Credit: Adam Poulsen.

The general manager of the Rigters Supermarket Group says he is disappointed with the extended retail trading hours endorsed by City of Greater Geraldton councillors. During the September 25 council meeting, councillors unanimously agreed to endorse the continuation of extended trading hours for general retailers such as Coles and Woolworths.

The deregulation, whichhas been trialled since October last year, allows larger retailers to extend their opening times until 9pm during the week, to open from 11am-5pm on Sundays, and to trade on public holidays.

Kyme Rigter said although there was a need for extended trading hours in the city, adopting metropolitan retail hours was having a negative impact on local businesses.

“We were trying to give them some feedback on the hours that were being perused and how it’s affecting us and other businesses,” he said.

“We lost 70 positions within the first six months (of the trial)

“We’re not painting the idea as bad, we were just looking at all aspects before flicking the switch.

“But the decision’s been made and we respect that. We just have to hope that people will still support local businesses as best as they can.”

In a phone survey of 400 community members, held by research company Thinkfield, about 63 per cent of respondents said they supported the continuation of the deregulated trading hours.

Mid West Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Richard Sykes said it was clear the community supported the extended hours but not enough people were shopping after 7pm.

“The feedback we got was the 9pm opening times were a little exhaustive and not overly supported by community,” he said.

“The chamber recommended extended hours be continued but scaled back to 7pm and kept at 9pm on Thursday.

“It could be quite successful if the business community can come together and decide on trading hours.”

During the council meeting, several councillors voiced concern about the opening times, with Cr Simon Keemink noting 9pm was “too late”. As part of a review of the trial, independent economics consultancy Progress Economics invited 133 businesses to take part in an independent business sur-vey.

Of the 46 businesses that responded, 54 per cent said their average monthly sales had fallen and 36 per cent claimed to be employing fewer staff during the trial period.

The report suggests there was a loss of 40 full-time jobs and 10 casual workers but a small gain of six part-time jobs.

Mayor Shane Van Styn said the trading hours were ultimately a community decision.

“These hours were trialled and surveyed and they’re what people have asked for.,” he said.

Cr Michael Reymond said although the deregulation may trigger some adverse effects, in the long run it would be a positive change to the city. “This allows us some consistency with the rest of the State,” he said.

“There’s going to be winners and losers but… at the end of the day, we’re looking at the process longer term.

“Having extended trading hours will look good on our CV… and I believe from my heart the community wants these conditions.”

The motion noted that traders don’t have to open but can choose when they operate within the approved hours.

The City will now seek approval from the minister for commerce to continue the deregulation.

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