Retail campaign a blunder, ad bosses admit


Milanda Rout and Blair Speedy

SENIOR advertising figures have slammed a campaign by major retailers calling for taxation of internet shopping.

They say it has only succeeded in angering customers while highlighting the savings available online,The Australian reported.

A group of 21 retailers, including Myer, Harvey Norman, David Jones and Just Group, this week ran full-page newspaper ads calling for the government to impose GST and import duty on purchases made from foreign websites, which are currently tax-free for transactions up to $1000.

Sean Cummins, executive director at advertising agency CumminsRoss, said the campaign was “ill-timed and ill-toned, coming straight after consumers splurged on Christmas gifts”.

While the advertisements said the tax exemption created an “uneven playing field” that could lead to the loss of Australian jobs, Mr Cummins said consumers were sceptical of retailers portraying themselves as “victims of a terrible tax regime”.
“It’s just dreadfully and poorly considered and shows a lack of understanding on what the consumer is thinking,” he said.

He said the retailers would have done better to lobby the government privately.

But Solomon Lew, chairman of Just Group parent company Premier Investments, said retailers were forced into a campaign after years of pleading went unheeded by the government.

“This went to cabinet 10 months ago and nobody wanted to touch it because it was going to cost votes . . . but the voter also needs a job,” he said.

Public reaction to the campaign has been mostly negative, with many responses in online forums focusing on the wealth of retail bosses and the service standards in Australian shops.

Simon Burrett, managing director of advertising agency SMART, said consumers were demonstrating their dissatisfaction with local retailers by shopping online.

“The retailers are effectively saying that what they have on offer is only 10 per cent better than a faceless e-commerce website,” he said.

Jim Macnamara, professor of public communications at the University of Technology, Sydney, said unlike the mining industry’s successful campaign against the resource super-profits tax last year, the retailers didn’t have the threat of a looming election to force the government to act.