Winners Identified

The recent Gallop decision to not extend retail trading hours seemed at first to be a lose-lose proposition. After my experience tonight, it’s evident that isn’t the case.

I paid a visit to Dewsons supermarket in Doubleview at about 6:30pm last night. Dewsons is a chain (or perhaps franchise?) of grocery/supermarket outlets that for some reason are allowed to open 7 days a week until 8pm. How exactly Dewsons supermarkets are different to Coles/Woolworths etc, I’m not sure. They certainly sell all the same things that the larger stores do, albeit at a higher price. I’m assuming it’s something to do with the floor area of the store.

In any case, Dewsons, along with FAL, were a large players in the so-called “small business alliance” that lobbied hard against the retail deregulation.

It’s not hard to see why.

When I went to pick up a few things at 6:30, there were about 70 people in line for the 3 checkout operators in the store. Most of them had only a basket-sized grocery load, but it wouldn’t be accurate to say that they were just buying bread and milk. After all, Dewsons has a full fruit+vegetable and deli meats section (at least, my local one does).

In the scheme of things, its safe to say Dewsons (And similarly-sized grocer/supermarkets) sit somewhere between the full-sized supermarkets and the corner deli. The strange thing is that the deli owners have thrown their full weight behind the anti-deregulation lobby, when the only stores that really stand to benefit are places like Dewsons.

It would be a big surprise for any of the major chains to decide to open for 24 hours a day even if they were able to. More likely, they would simply open on Sundays, and until 8pm or thereabouts on weekdays to capitalise on the commuter trade. This is hardly going to affect the takings of Delis or corner shop operators any more than Dewsons already does.

Dewsons and their ilk are the undoubted beneficiaries of the Gallop decision to scuttle retail deregulation.

The losers are everyone else: The deli and corner shop owners, who continue to have their market share whittled away from the very franchises that they lobbied with; The durable goods retailers who face no real small business competitors anyway (like Harvey Norman); The retail employees, many of whom are casual and part-time, who could use more hours; And, of course, me and my 70-100 fellow consumers, facing the artificially sustained prices and Soviet-style queues which are the all-too-obvious signs of Government regulation gone out of control.

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