Like Retail NZ CEO Mark Johnston, she has criticised the laws for their inconsistency.
“Shops in Tairua can open on Anzac morning as long as Anzac Day falls on a Monday or Friday, Picton can stay open if a cruise ship is in port; some shops in Thames can open on Easter Sunday as long as Easter falls in March, garden centres can open Easter Sunday but are fined for opening Good Friday,” she says. “These exemptions and amendments make the act a travesty of government regulation.”
Stretton says it is “ridiculous” that Easter trading laws do not take e-commerce into account, highlighting the situation by saying shoppers can place a grocery order online and have it packed and delivered even while the supermarket checkouts are closed.
“It is a matter of urgency that we review our archaic retail laws and bring them into the new century, drafting new ones that are more pro-choice for both workers and shoppers,” she says. “The profits garden centres receive more than cover the $1000 fine they pay to trade on that day – proof that there is demand from customers for stores to be open. If customers want to shop, and workers want to work – why is the government stopping them?”
The Register took the opportunity to ask Stretton some of the questions which emerged from its reader base in response to Johnston’s opinion piece of last week.
One commenter said they valued the holiday hours because they could guarantee that time off so that their workers could be with their families. Stretton says she accepts and appreciates this, but she feels staff should be able to choose. Not everyone celebrates Easter, she says, and she believes the majority of staff would choose to amplify their income by accepting time and a half and an alternate holiday over taking Easter off work.
More than one retailer wrote of the difficulty in complying with mall opening hours. Stretton says malls “write their own laws” and her company only has one store in a mall, but she says that mall encourages as much trading as possible.
“I believe malls are caught up in this just as the rest of us are, and if a choice existed, malls would open [on holidays.]”
Stretton empathised with the retailer who wrote about how much trouble they had identifying whether they were allowed to open or not. She says her store in Whitianga was invited to trade last Sunday by a group of retailers who were considering defying the trading laws.
She says she wants the trading laws changed this year as the pressure on businesses in strip retail positions is only growing more intense. “It’s really time to do something about this.”