For his GST campaign on overseas purchases, Gerry Harvey has been on the receiving end of an unprecedented level of public criticism. I was interested to read fresh criticism from the head of the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees union, Joe de Bruyn:
Myer chief executive Bernie Brookes has suggested that up to 30,000 jobs could be cut from the Australian retail sector unless GST and import duty exemptions are removed from online purchases of less than $1000 made via foreign websites. But Mr de Bruyn, whose union has more than 230,000 members, said he was doubtful the threats would be carried out. “I don’t believe it’s going to have a significant impact on employment – they’re using these figures for dramatic effect,” he said.
Now, I yield to no man in my criticism of Gerry Harvey, but Joe here doesn’t sound quite as across issues in his sector as he perhaps should be.
Maybe Joe should cast a sideways glance at the manufacturing sector, where the Australian reported in June last year ”The high exchange rate and competition, particularly from China, forced the loss of 30,000 jobs in manufacturing over the past three months”. Manufacturing is another sector that’s been forced into dramatic restructure over the past 10-20 years, with production shifting from countries like Australia to areas with cheaper workforces like China. Quite why de Bruyn thinks a similar restructure couldn’t take place in retail I’m not sure. But I’m sure glad I’m not in his union.
Or you could just look at overseas examples. From the Guardian, “[UK entertainment retailer] HMV Group has begun a radical downsizing programme that will see it shut almost one in 10 of its high street music stores” resulting in 1,200 job losses. This follows the closure of Zavvi and Virgin Megastore during the recession, making HMV the only pureplay entertainment chain left in the UK – and they still can’t maintain performance(!). Online shopping and downloads are being blamed. But according to Joe …
The vast majority of people still want to touch and feel and see before they buy something – people will buy a book on the internet because they don’t have to try it on, but most things people will go to a retail store to buy.
So people won’t buy clothes online? Maybe Joe hasn’t heard of online-only fashion retailer asos.com. With £320 million revenue expected this financial year asos.com is the UK’s largest independent fashion retailer. With Australia’s own fashion retailers dragging their feet, asos.com are gunning for Australian customers too. They report that international sales account for around 37% of revenue with the main markets being Australia, Germany, France, USA and Ireland. And if Joe has any lingering doubts he should just search “clothes”‘ in google.com.au. First sponsored result: “Delivery to Australia from £5″.
And people say unions aren’t moving with the times!