Call for support for small retailers ahead of election

As NSW voters prepare to head to the polls, the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) has urged Liberal and Labor to take heed of the potential vote influencing significance of giving small retailers a fairer go when it comes to competing with the major grocery chains.

Recent independent research by SMR Global, commissioned by the AACS, investigated the attitudes and opinions of consumers of voting age on a range of key issues affecting the convenience industry in NSW and Australia. The research covered areas including the legalisation of e-cigarettes, the illicit trade of tobacco and permitting convenience stores to sell packaged alcohol, and the findings are compelling – especially in terms of the potential for these issues to influence people’s votes.

Some key take-outs from the research include:

  • 48 per cent of all Australians (smokers and non-smokers) feel strongly enough about the legalisation of e-cigarettes for it to influence their vote.
  • 51 per cent of all Australians (smokers and non-smokers) would consider changing their vote if the major parties differed in their response to tackling the illicit tobacco trade.
  • 45 per cent of consumers support convenience stores having a licence to sell packaged alcohol.

AACS CEO Jeff Rogut says the findings are not surprising given the environment of increased public dismay at the tactics of “big business”.

“Politicians invariably trumpet their support for small business during election campaigns but too often, once the verdict is in and there are no immediate votes at stake, that support fails to translate into real action. The recent research we’ve commissioned should make politicians at all levels stop and think. There is a groundswell of support for measures that promote a more level playing field in retail, and which provide the capacity for small businesses like convenience stores to more effectively compete with the big end of town,” Rogut said.

Some of the key areas the AACS is pushing for reform include:

  • Developing an appropriate legal framework for the sale of e-cigarettes.
  • Cracking down on the illicit trade of tobacco, currently estimated to cost the Australian Government over $1.9 billion in lost tax revenue each year.
  • Securing the right for convenience stores to sell packaged alcohol should they so choose.
  • Securing improved support from Government and law enforcement authorities in taking a zero-tolerance approach to crimes committed against convenience stores.

The AACS has consistently called for deregulation in the packaged alcohol market to enable Australian convenience stores to participate in this market as their international counterparts. Rogut also reiterated that legalising the sale of e-cigarettes is another economic opportunity for convenience stores.

He added that failing to legalise the sale of e-cigarettes is fuelling the black market trade of these products. “Internationally, these products have proven very effective as an alternative to help people quit traditional smoking and as a profitable category for convenience stores…It’s mystifying that, in Australia, we are denying consumers access to a product that could potentially save their lives,” Rogut said.

On the issue of crime, the AACS believes there is considerable scope to bolster the law enforcement and judicial response to better protect the people in the convenience industry.

“There is an opportunity to use (the Fair Work Amendment) as a basis and extend it to serve as a deterrent for those who commit violent crimes on workers not only in our industry, but also to protect the people who work in fast food restaurants and other late-night businesses,” Rogut said. “Smarter deterrents and tougher penalties are part of the response we’re calling for to protect the people in our industry.”

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