Almost 1000 stores in Melbourne's central shopping precinct will stay open late every day of the week, in a significant agreement to be announced by lord mayor Robert Doyle on Monday.
Later this month all retailers in and around the Bourke Street Mall, Melbourne Central, Melbourne's GPO and the new Emporium Melbourne will begin trading until at least 7pm every night.
Late night shopping extended in city centre
Melbourne city stores will soon open to 7pm from Sunday to Thursday in a joint agreement between retailers.
Late-night trading will continue on Thursdays and Fridays, when shops are open until 9pm.
Fairfax Media understands the announcement could be the first in a series of agreements to extend trading hours in the precinct enclosed by the Bourke Street Mall, La Trobe Street, Elizabeth Street and Swanston Street.
The lord mayor said normal trading days could be extended to 8pm and beyond within the next two years. "Retailers will react to their customers' needs and as we become that global 24-hour city," Cr Doyle said.
Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman said overseas tourists expected stores in the CBD to be open to 8pm, 9pm or 10pm, as they were in other major tourist cities such as Hong Kong and Los Angeles.
However, Mr Zimmerman pointed out the overseas stores paid significantly lower wages to their workers. He said it was time for a frank discussion about retail penalty rates, arguing that Saturday and Sunday were no longer necessarily "unsociable" times to work.
"I'm not suggesting that we pay wages of $8 or $9 an hour; my point is it's much cheaper [to be open later] overseas.
Myer and David Jones' Bourke Street stores have already been trading until at least 7pm every night.
Cr Doyle said the agreement to bring other shops into line with the two department stores was prompted by City of Melbourne data that showed the city was being visited by up to one million people daily. He said the extended hours would encourage city workers to stay in the CBD longer, not only to shop but also to be fed and entertained.
The new trading hours will begin on Tuesday, April 22 when the first stage of the $1.6 billion Emporium Melbourne project is completed.