Now that daylight saving has been given the heave-ho, the testy topic of retail trading hours is back in the headlines and clogging the airwaves.
Will Perth get extended shopping hours? Will the shops stay open until 7pm or 9pm? Whatever way the politicians go (no referendum for this one), there is certain to be people unhappy with the decision.
But it is worth noting that even an hour’s extension in the time we have to shop will bring real benefits to our activity centres, be it the Perth central business district or suburban shopping centres.
As it stands, Perth operates largely mono-cultural activity centres that are heavily dominated by retail – a series of shopping malls surrounded by a sea of carparks. When the shops shut, the carparks are soon emptied, with little if anything to hold customers there past 5.30 or 6pm.
In the city, the shops shut and before you can say ‘but I haven’t done my shopping’ there is a mass exodus of people heading out of the CBD. Activity grinds to a halt.
Any increase in trading hours will immediately increase the overlap between shopping and socialising, such as heading out to restaurants or the movies, and will result in greater interaction of diverse uses, thereby invigorating activity centres.
A good shopping district open later will attract more restaurants and other entertainment facilities to the area. We would see more multi-purpose centres, with shops, restaurants, bars and cinemas interlinked and feeding off one another.
Rather than rushing to get a few groceries on the way home from work before the shops shut you could catch up with friends for coffee, a drink or an early dinner and then shop at your leisure – or vice versa.
An extension of retail trading hours will also reduce anti-social behaviour, with more people out and about in areas currently abandoned within half an hour of shops closing.
The longer the overlap between diverse uses the more beneficial for all concerned, but even some overlap is better than nothing. It not only creates more vibrant centres but more sustainable ones, too.