- Small business owners reluctant
- Sundays are mainly for "browsing"
- No compulsion for businesses to open
Small business owners across Perth will begrudgingly work this Sunday when seven-day trading begins - but they're warning they will close unless customers turn up.
This weekend heralds an historic moment for Western Australia, with all metropolitan retailers allowed to open between 11am and 5pm on a Sunday for the first time.
Major shopping centres are expecting between 80-95 per cent of their stores to open, with only services such as banks and post offices closed.
However, many of the smaller shops have given seven-day trading a short life line, predicting low turnover will force them to close on Sundays until the busier Christmas period.
Several centres attempted to get ahead of the pack by opening last Sunday. But their retailers were disappointed.
Numerous small business operators in those centres complained that the entertainment put on to attract people was a greater hit than the shops, which began closing as early as 3pm.
Others said there had been too little advance advertising for the extra shopping hours.
Owner of Produce at Innaloo Westfield, Loan Trung, said she wanted to open on Sundays to provide fresh fruit and vegetables every day but after only small takings last Sunday she feared it would not be economical.
Mrs Trung and her husband will work all weekend, along with two staff, to keep down costs.
If trade was low they would not hesitate to close early and not open on future Sundays. Many said they would give seven-day trading a few weeks before deciding whether it was worthwhile.
Owner of Cobblers & Keys at Innaloo Westfield, Jeffrey Gilbert, said he was forced to open because his competitors were, but as soon as they gave up, so would he.
He did not want to be the first to fold because it may encourage his competitors to remain open on Sundays for longer.
"In the long-term I don't plan [to open on Sundays]," Mr Gilbert said.
"I'm hoping my competitors will realise it's not viable and they'll shut. They'll be losing money every week, I know that for sure.
"I think the only Sunday that will work for me is Christmas Eve. The rest of them are just a waste of time."
Mr Gilbert said on previous Sundays that the centre had opened he had taken just $20-30.
Shops that require more than one staffer are juggling mid-week rosters to accommodate the extra working day, while some have called in more family members for support on Sundays.
Hairhouse Warehouse owner Effie Lucas cannot man her salon alone and was forced to operate short-staffed yesterday to give employees who work with her on Sunday a day off during the week.
"I hope [Sunday trading] will be good but I don't think it will," she said.
Lisschele Masters said she and her daughter would be running her shop Flowers in the Garden, at Garden City, on Sunday but she does not expect it to be worthwhile.
"Initially, I don't have those expectations," she said.
"Myself and my family will be doing the first few to monitor it."
The situation is even more difficult for retailers with several stores.
John Ferrier, who owns four newsagencies in three shopping centres, said he would open only three.
He would be the sole worker at his Belmont store, while his son would run another and two junior employees would staff the third.
He said shops at Belmont Forum, which were mostly owned by sole traders, had banded together to open this Sunday despite misgivings.
"A lot of them don't want to open but if you don't all open it's going to be a futile event," he said.
"If customers come in and see half of [the shops] closed they're not going to come back."
However, there was no guarantee the stores would open the full hours.
"We'll suss it out; if it dies around 3 o'clock, we'll all start slowly closing," he said.
"I think it will be a moderate day until people get into the habit of coming in [on Sundays]."
But fellow Belmont Forum trader Mark Piani is refusing to open his surf clothing shop on Sundays.
"No way in the world," he said.
"When is small business meant to have a day off? We already do six days a week.
"The football's on, you catch up with your family and mates, you live your life."
"They'll walk in and get a coffee and wander around," he said. "People use the shopping centres as a hub to take the kids."
He said other traders were struggling to convince staff to work because they feared they would be told to close up early, without being paid for the full day.
Mr Ferrier said he would prefer the shorter Sunday trading hours to begin earlier in the day.
"Your day is lost," he said. "You get up in the morning, you sit around at home waiting to go to work. It would be much better to start at 9 o'clock and finish at three."
Small Business Commissioner David Eaton this week sent a letter to 10,000 small business owners in Perth confirming their right not to open on Sundays.
"So far, we have received only a small number of inquiries from retailers to our business advisory service in regard to Sunday trading, with most of those callers concerned about whether they would be liable to pay operational costs if they chose not open on Sundays," Mr Eaton said.
"The answer of course is no.
"I've spoken with several shopping centre managers and managing agents in the past few weeks and they are all clear on their responsibilities regarding Sunday trading."
Mr Eaton said he was not aware of any shopping centre insisting their tenants open on Sundays.
The Small Business Development Corporation has developed a free, online business calculator to help retailers work out whether it is viable to open on Sundays.