The Government Should Invest in Retail’s Future
Chris Morley has many years of retail experience, so it’s understandable that he gets frustrated when the Government wastes funds on collapsing industries. Where are all the retail grants?
Last week, Ford Australia announced it would sadly have to slash jobs at its manufacturing plants. This was, of course, a kick in the guts for the economy, the Gillard Government who had given a $1 billion grant to Ford earlier this year and especially those employees who are now out of work.
The retail industry is currently going through some very tough times of its own; numerous stories of businesses closing doors and laying off staff are sadly appearing in media outlets all over the country. Estimates of the losses to the retail industry by the National Retail Association are about 650 store closures and nearly 2,000 job losses in the past 6 months, with everyone from Myer, Dick Smith, WOW, Fletcher Jones and even chocolatier Darrell Lea announcing the depressing news from the front line.
Retailers have constantly asked for changes to laws and regulations that they see as holding them back against the tide of growth from online retail; these arguments we have heard before regarding the GST, penalty rates, zoning laws. I have always taken the stance that those retailers not online should embrace it. Slowly we are starting to see that happen more and more. So perhaps it is time that retailers asked for government grants to assist their move online, rather than asking for legislative changes and complaining about the ‘enemy’ of online retail.
The Government spent $1 billion on Ford; is that money really well spent? Retail as an industry employs over 1.2 million people and it is long term and viable – unlike manufacturing cars, which, lets face it, has been propped up for years with tariffs, taxes and government grants and employs only 1 million people. Retail is a better bet; it’s an evolving business – so perhaps some help is needed to assist with the evolution.
I propose a government grant for retail with the proviso that the funds be spent on moving a retail business into the future and engaging with the online audience. The money may be used by retailers for some of the following examples;
- Those retailers that don’t have a website
- To get consulting from experienced personnel to assist their online strategy
- Retain staff to new areas of growth within the business (retail doesn’t need to lose staff to stay profitable if it goes online)
- Invest in in-store infrastructure to support in-store online purchases. This would include devices such as iPads and wireless hubs locked on to the store site
- The money could go to improving websites to try and replicate the in-store purchase experience
Retail includes online, so why don’t we try a different tact: embrace it and rather than ask governments to change legislation, ask instead for e-commerce grants to promote the retail sector. These kinds of grants would help to evolve local retail, keep jobs here in our local industry and provide better local options to keep shopping here, rather than buying from overseas sites.
The retail sector has often had traditionalists slinging mud and accusations at the online world, and while I don’t agree with many of their previous arguments or requests from the government, seeing $1 billion spent on another industry to keep jobs safe has made me think that surely retailers can spend that government money better!
Keeping people employed and rewarded with income, they can reinvest into the economy into what is the cornerstone of a strong economy. I believe a retail grant for e-commerce would help achieve this through growing the industry positively. Retail is no longer just a store in the suburbs – so lets deal with it.
What is your stance on Government grants for retailers? Do small businesses that are struggling to get online deserve a handout? Is there already funding available for them to do so? Have your say.