The National Retail Association (aka the union for profit hungry big retail) is carping on again with their demand for the Australian government to impose a 10% tax on online goods purchases. A report todays says: “Australia stands to lose 88,000 retail jobs over the next five years if the government does not begin levying tax on imported items bought online and worth less than $1000” says the National Retail Association. The big retailers are just sooooo concerned about their staff and the potential for staff to lose their jobs. Isn’t that jolly good of them!
In reality of course, big retail is only concerned about themselves and their hungry profits. Having ripped off Australian consumers for years with over-inflated prices, baulked at providing real customer service, and completely failed to see the coming of the 21st century, the big retailers now want to keep heaping additional costs directly on the consumer. Moreover, the high Australian dollar makes buying from overseas for BOTH the retailer and the consumer that much more inexpensive. Retail cannot face up to the fact that we live in a global village with access to a vast range of goods at various prices from around the globe.
One of the great ironies is that these same retailers are happy to source product from overseas at reduced costs. They obviously aren’t concerned about the Australian jobs lost through their offshore purchasing. Indeed, a bevy of big retailing bosses weren’t too unhappy when their businesses boomed at the expense of smaller local competition.
Like most big businesses, they don’t want the competition. It’s easier without it.
The other self-serving irony is that it won’t be big retail paying the cost of collecting any new tax on online purchases. No, it will be us consumers again through our taxes. The government will have to pay for the cost of assessing and collecting this tax – on goods below $1000. I bet you the cost of administering the tax on my $35 book from Amazon won’t be efficient. And there’s still no guarantee I won’t continue buying from Amazon (or wherever) to get the goods I want, when I want it, and at a price I want to pay.
Changing business conditions have always occurred. The farriers and wheelwrights went out of business when the car replaced the horse and cart. Farm labour got the bullet when farm mechanisation was possible. Service station attendants got the chop when self-serve petrol pumps came into vogue. And big, fat department stores will face the wall from more competitive providers of goods who can serve customers more effectively and deliver faster.
Offsetting these job losses in industries facing rapid change have been new jobs. There aren’t too many unemployed wheelwrights and farriers any more as there won’t be too many bored shop assistants in the future. And courier companies will be looking to soak up new staff to move all these goods around. One wonders why the National Retail Association hasn’t been pushing for a carbon tax – now, that would be real progress!
Instead of blowing additional hot air, the National Retail Association would be better served by having its financial supporters actually provide proper training to staff. They could actually provide excellent customer service. They could try new ways of creating relationships with customers instead of treating customers like commodities. They could stop ripping off Australian consumers with ridiculous prices. But most of all, they could wake up to the 21st century and respond (which is different to react) to the new environment with a change to the way THEY operate.
Go, National Retail, Go!