Although I wrote this article on small business some time ago (under a Labor government, in fact), it is still very applicable.

Retail remains in the doldrums, to the point that we are closing 3 of our 6 stores at the end of this month after 10 years of operation. It’s impossible for us to keep our head above water at the moment. The Coalition has some great ideas for reducing red tape for small business, but it’s all a little too late in coming. The current government is also looking into penalty rates for retail, hospitality and other sectors which seriously needs to be addressed.

I employ 16 women, both part time and full time. Many have families and their only opportunity to work is weekends where perhaps they have a husband at home on the weekends who can take care of the kids. It suits them. They are not told they have to work weekends, it’s their choice and in a poor retail environment we can’t afford to be open on a Sunday or a public holiday. The one’s who miss out are our employees – they need those additional hours to balance their budget.

A Sunday casual rate is approx $33.00 per hour, public holiday $44.00 and with work care, superannuation and holiday pay added into the equation brings that up to $40.00 and $50.00 per hour. On a bad day we’re making a loss.

The economy is fine!

Stop complaining!

What the hell were people thinking?

While I didn’t live through the Great Depression, I have been in business for more than 40 years. Even through the 90s recession business conditions weren’t anywhere near as tough as they have been in recent times, and still are.

I choose to work in retail, but I am sick and tired of hearing how good the economy is.

My foray into retail commenced in San Francisco during a recession. My company Excessories survived the regional Victorian bush fires: towns were closed, and it was inappropriate to shop when so many families had lost everything, so we outfitted survivors at cost to replace their wardrobes.

We survived the floods: towns were closed (again) and visitors didn’t come for a long time – some couldn’t even if they wanted to!

We even got through the GFC!

What we are experiencing now is far worse than anything I have seen to date.

Interestingly, I began thinking it was just me, but suppliers, customers and competitors all agree – we have never seen conditions like this.

Every trade show I go to I see less and less exhibitors and attendees.

We have seen sales of our products drop by over 50% and there have been entire days with no sales whatsoever.

Unheard of.

I have the best staff who work hard and with good humour, but their morale and ability to earn a living gets harder every day.

We are an employer of choice in regional Victoria where things are even more difficult than the main cities. Most of our team have been with me for many years – I know their families and I want them to continue working with me and enjoy the rewards that hard work should bring.

I have seen headlines in the news (even the mainstream press) as to how bad things are. For balance:

The Age on 30th August 2013 – headline “Slow going as DJs awaits upturn” by Elizabeth Knight;

News.com.au on 11th September 2013 – “Housing key to retail recovery: Economics partner David Rumbens says” by Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics Correspondent.

Despite the prevailing opinion, the previous Federal Government kept telling us that it was fine, questioning why Australians were complaining when the numbers told them that there was nothing to worry about…numbers!

Pfffft!

Now we have a new Federal Government and I want them to hear the voices of small-to-medium businesses clearly. We are major employers in Australia and have been ignored for too long.

We are usually more than happy to get on with the job, but are very wary of administrative burden. Would you believe that our business hires one full-time person (40 hours a week!) to cover the paperwork for just 16 employees?

How can that be?

We buy dresses (and a few other very special fashion items) and then we sell them.

It’s not rocket science, so why do we need that level of help just to stay in business?

It’s crazy!

Yes there are a lot of changes to our world. Everything changes. Always has. If you own a small business you are used to it, but does it have to be this hard?

Now is the time to make it easier to do business, employ people and ultimately pay the taxes needed to keep it spinning around.

If you’d like to know more about Lynne buy her  book “Champion Tales: The men I’ve loved and the jails I’ve been in!”

Get in touch with Lynne directly: lynne@lynnechampion.com.au

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