Invitation to Comment – Shoes of Prey Heading to Parliament House

By Michael Fox | 28 Feb 2011

Invitation to comment from Shoes of Prey, who along with DealsDirect and Envato, are heading to Canberra on Thursday to discuss and raise a number of key issues affecting e-commerce businesses with government officials.

Power Retail - Parliament House

Online retailers, Shoes of Prey, DealsDirect and Envato heading to Canberra to talk about the state of Australian e-commerce. (Image Source: Wikipedia)

This Thursday, Shoes of Prey Co-Founder, Jodie (Fox) is headed to parliament house in Canberra as part of a visit organised by PayPal for three of it’s merchants to meet with ministers and shadow ministers of the government. The goal is to share the story of our business and raise a number of key issues affecting e-commerce businesses.

Our fellow PayPal merchants are Paul Greenberg of DealsDirect and Vahid Ta’eed of Envato.

At this stage we’re expecting to meet with:

  • Senator Stephen Conroy – Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
  • Malcolm Turnbull MP – Shadow Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
  • Bill Shorten MP – Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation
  • Senator Nick Sherry – Minister for Small Business
  • Bruce Billson MP – Shadow Minister for Small Business, Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs

We’d love to get your thoughts on these and any other issues prior to our meetings.

Online retail presents a fantastic export opportunity and an opportunity for Australia to develop a strong knowledge based industry so that we’re competitive as a country beyond the current resources boom. In our view the following are key issues for growing the online retail space that the government is in a position to help with:

  • Delivery Services – Australia Post is government-owned and while more competitors are entering the package delivery market in Australia, we’d love to see Australia Post focus on this area more. We have a number of issues with Australia Post’s parcel delivery service throughout the country and it’s forced us to switch from using EMS who contract with Australia Post to DHL for our deliveries worldwide.
  • Education – Education is critical for the future of the technology and online retail industries in Australia. We don’t have enough computer science students to really encourage growth and entrepreneurship in these areas. Many budding Australian tech-entrepreneurs have great ideas, but don’t have the technical skills themselves and can’t find a business partner with the technical skills to start innovative businesses. More computer science student places and scholarships are needed. The national broadband network (NBN) is a great initiative but to take full advantage of it we will need computer science graduates.
  • Banking de-regulation or incentives for financial institutions to encourage more competition in the merchant payments market. We’re fortunate in Australia that we have PayPal in the merchant payments market because without them it would be very difficult for businesses like ours to operate, particularly in exporting our products. It would be great to see the Australian banks innovating in this space, however to date, their offerings have been nothing other than woeful.
  • GST threshold – While in an ideal world GST and duty would be charged on foreign online retail purchases, the productivity commission report outlining the high costs of implementing this means it’s not worthwhile. Consumers and taxpayers shouldn’t pay for what would be only a small benefit to Australian retailers. Don’t succumb to the pressure from the Retail Coalition, they need to be encouraged to innovate in the online retail space rather than focusing on trying to protect themselves.
  • Grants – The Export Market Development Grant is a good one for online retailers selling their products overseas, however the lack of certainty around these payments for exporters poses challenges when making decisions on marketing their products overseas. That said we can appreciate the budgeting challenges this grant creates if a limit on government spending isn’t set. One area open for improvement is that there could be less of an administrative burden to access the grant. A string of companies have sprung up to help businesses through the red tape to apply for the grant. They then take a percentage of the funds the government provides. This isn’t ideal, it would be better if the administrative burdens were eased while still ensuring only legitimate businesses can access the funds. All other grants we’ve looked into, exclude online retailers as their requirements don’t fit with our business model (e.g. Commercialisation Australia requires the business to have strong design or patent protections which don’t apply to online retailers) – it would be great if these other grants could be opened up to online retailers.

Let us know you  thoughts on the above issues and anything else you think we should discuss.


5 thoughts on “Invitation to Comment – Shoes of Prey Heading to Parliament House”

  1. Ivan Lim says:

    Hi Michael,

    First off, congratulations on Shoe’s of Prey being offered such a wonderful opportunity to speak directly with key government influencers on issues affecting us online retailers. It’s obvious that the last few months have emerged as the tipping point for online retail (and all things digital for that matter) in Australia so the occasion is very timely.

    A few things strike me as key discussion points to raise while in Canberra. The biggest of which is education. It is however much more than just technical students who need an education boost, it’s the overall education system that needs to realign itself with the growing tech industry. I wouldn’t be able to name the number of subjects I personally did in University that completely glossed over the online space (I did a Media Communications degree at Melbourne University). Commerce, marketing and media students, among many others, leave our education system without being equipped with the skills to tackle the tech industry. It’s more than just adding more new programs. It’s about exposing future workers to the possibilities of what the ecommerce and tech industry offers. These experiences should see more tech entrepreneurs take flight.

    Australia has already been blessed with incredible tech talent such as the Retail Me Not and Atlassian guys so I wonder how much more potential is waiting to be harnessed if the education system began to seriously realign curriculum to the digital industry.

    A lot of admiration must be given to companies such as Market Motive ( run by Avinash Kaushik in the US. They conduct internet marketing certification courses that are endorsed by universities. This, or something similar to this, could be applied to Australia.

    The last thing that has been on my mind for a while has been the need to have an organisational body representing online retailers in Australia. At present there doesn’t seem to be any association that adequately represents the unique needs of Ecommerce retailers and more can be done in this area to support online retail growth. If you guys need more stats, Forrester just released stats that Online Retailing in the US will be worth $279 billion by 2015

    These are clear indicators of where the future of retailing is moving towards. A discussion on creating a representational body for Online Retailers at some point down the track could be very beneficial.

    Thanks for the opportunity to contribute Michael and all the best to Jodie for the trip on Thursday!

  2. Michael Fox says:

    Hi Ivan, great points, particularly around education. I agree, despite the growth of the online space the course curriculums at most education institutions haven’t kept pace with these changes.

    I also agree with you regarding a lack of an organisational body for online retailers, but I wonder if that’s the role of the government to provide? I’m not entirely sure how such a body would come out of industry, but I suspect that might be a better approach. Certainly online retail industry blogs like PowerRetail are encouraging us in the right direction towards an industry body.

    1. Grant Arnott says:

      Thanks Michael – stay tuned re: industry body, we’re just getting started.

      1. Ivan Lim says:

        Looking forward to it Grant! You Power Retail guys are already doing great stuff. More to come I’m sure (would love to see an industry body established!)

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