In the 12 months to October 2020, the NAB Online Retail Sales Index revealed online retail turnover increased almost 40 per cent in Western Australia, which is why now is the time for parties contesting the WA Election to focus on helping small businesses and boosting the bricks-and-mortar retail sector. REIWA President Damian Collins said during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia, retailers and small business were some of the most negatively impacted by the shutdowns imposed to keep us all safe. “As things begin to return to normal after lockdown, it has become apparent that a refreshed legislative framework is needed to ensure business can readily adapt to the new norm and it is why REIWA is calling on commercial real estate to be a priority,” Mr Collins said. Create local jobs by removing stamp duty on the purchase of a small business In 2015, the ABS data (February 2020) found there were 221,173 businesses operating in WA, however in 2019 only 141,656 of those businesses continued to operate. “With the significant number of small businesses not surviving longer term, it is time to look at what can be done to help those businesses survive, with REIWA recommending a staged approach to abolish stamp duty collection on the purchase of a small business,” Mr Collins said. “WA is just one of three states or territories that continues to collect stamp duty on the purchase of a business. Currently, a buyer who purchases a business to a value of $5 million will be liable for $250,000 in stamp duty which can equate to five local, full-time jobs or up to ten trainees in sectors such as childcare, retail and hospitality. “The WA Government has made a commitment to boost West Australian jobs and increase investment in our state, with this initiative a prime example of not only doing this but also encouraging investment in small businesses.” Boost the retail sector through a modern and flexible legislative framework that encourages innovation According to Y Research, nearly one in 10 stores across WA’s 78 largest supermarket-based shopping centres was vacant in June 2020, with Lakeside Joondalup, Westfield Booragoon and Galleria recording a vacancy rate of 7.4 per cent – three times more than the historical average of one to two per cent. In addition, many high streets across Perth are also experiencing very high retail vacancy rates. “The current Commercial Tenancies (Retail Shops) Act is not only outdated but has hindered the retail sector significantly during a time when vendors were looking for innovative and creative ways to do business which contributes to lowering the vacancy rate,” Mr Collins said. “With a five-year minimum tenancy required, unless an exemption has been provided by the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT), commercial owners are inhibited from filling empty shops on a short-term basis and potential retailers are prevented from having the opportunity to test their business before committing to a long-term arrangement. “This is why REIWA is calling on all candidates to commit to an urgent review of the Act to enable greater flexibility in the length and conditions of retail leases, without the need to seek permission from the SAT.” More informationAs WA’s economy begins its recovery following the impacts of COVID-19, bold reforms are needed to make WA an investment hotspot not only now but well into the future across both residential and commercial real estate. These are only two of the five recommendations REIWA has suggested. You can view all five by reading 'REIWA calls for real estate to be a focus in the upcoming Western Australian Election'. To find out more about REIWA's advocacy efforts, view our advocacy page.