Like many retail businesses, business owners in the houseware retailing industry must  be aware of all their legal obligations. These include store trading hours, employment conditions and consumer obligations. If you are a houseware retailer, this article details those legal considerations of most importance to you when entering houseware retailing in Australia.

What is Houseware Retailing?

The term ‘houseware’ can  be confusing. For this article, the term houseware refers to products like cookware, tableware, cutlery, knives, bakeware, glassware and food storage containers. Small retailers mostly make up the houseware retail industry and no one company has more than a 5% share of the market. The most important legal considerations of which all houseware retailers must stay aware are:

Store Trading Hours

Like many retail outlets, the majority of houseware stores are subject to regulation concerning their store trading hours. The extent of this regulation – and thus its effect on a retailer – depends on where you trade and your store size.

Although the regulation of store trading hours serves various public purposes, it is in place in the houseware industry to even the commercial playing field. That is, to ensure that slightly larger houseware retailers do not gain a commercial advantage over the smaller ones by being able to open on days like public holidays.

State and territory governments regulate store trading hours. Depending on the location of your store, you will need to be familiar with your relevant legislation. In the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory, retail trading hours are deregulated. In New South Wales, the Retail Trading Act 2008 (NSW) governs retail trading hours. The act prohibits trading on ‘restricted trading days’ including Christmas Day, Easter Sunday, Good Friday and before 1 pm on Anzac Day. And while the Act exempts certain shops from these restrictions (a list is in Schedule 1), it does not include houseware retailers.

Nonetheless, if your store fits the definition of a small shop under the Act, you may be exempt. Alternatively if you are based in NSW, you can apply to the NSW Director-General to become exempt from trading restrictions. Similar regimes exist in all the other states.

For houseware retailers, these regulations mean that you need to be able to answer two questions confidently:

  • What days and hours can I open? and
  • Can I afford to open?

To answer the first question, check the relevant state legislation. The answer to the second question will depend not only on your financial position but also the relevant legal considerations about employment entitlements.

Employment Conditions

Like many retail outlets, the employees of houseware retailers fall under the General Retail Industry Award. The award is national and covers matters such as scheduling, penalty rates, appropriate breaks for staff on shift and annual leave entitlements.

The award permits penalty rates. All full-time and part-time staff of houseware retailers are entitled to a 25% loading for hours worked after 6 pm on weekdays and on Saturday. All employees, including casuals, receive a 100% penalty payment for working on Sunday and a 150% payment for working on public holidays.

These regulations mean that as a proprietor, you need to be very well aware of the award. Your employees must receive their correct entitlements as dictated by it. The website for the Fair Work Commission is an excellent general resource. The Award also means that when you consider if you can afford to open on restricted trading days, you must factor in penalty payments in your decision making.

As an employer, you must observe all your other workplace responsibilities. You must provide a safe workplace that is free harassment and discrimination. As well, you will need to make all appropriate superannuation contributions.

Consumer Obligations

As a retail outlet, you have responsibilities under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) . You must be able to meet all consumer guarantees and provide any appropriate remedies. Operating any business is complex. If you need legal advice, it is a good idea to speak with a lawyer. Their information will give you clarity and free up some of your time for other tasks. Contact LegalVision’s business structuring lawyers to assist you. Questions? Call us on 1300 544 755.

Carole Hemingway

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