Premier joins attack on online rivals

Premier Investments has joined other bricks-and-mortar retailers in calling for the federal government to get rid of the GST exemption on imported goods under $1000.

Premier Investments has joined other bricks-and-mortar retailers in calling for the federal government to get rid of the GST exemption on imported goods under $1000.

The company, which owns clothing chains Just Jeans and Jay Jays, believes lowering the threshold to tax cheaper goods would create a level playing field between local stores and online retailers.

The renewed calls come a day after Myer chairman Paul McClintock said he was confident the Coalition government would tackle the issue.

Premier chairman Solomon Lew said the different tax rates gave the company's international competitors an unfair advantage.

"I think they understand that there is a need to make it a level playing field," he said. "There's a need to close the loophole. And I think the state governments understand there is [tax] leakage."

Premier Investments says it expects consumer confidence to lift over the current year, but trading conditions remained challenging.

The company is struggling to compete against the growth of online retail stores, particularly dominant players such as ASOS, which have global distribution networks and fewer costs.

Despite this, it reported a net profit of $174.5 million in the year to July 27, up from $68.3 million during the previous 12 months. This included a one-off $105.2 million adjustment to include the company's 25 per cent equity investment in kitchen appliances maker Breville from early March.

Premier CEO and former boss of department store David Jones Mark McInnes said jobs would be lost over the next two years if the GST issue was not dealt with.

"I am absolutely confident that the Liberal government, Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey, they have no desire to put Australians out of work. They have no desire to put 33,000 Australians out of work in the next two years."

He said the company could be forced to cut jobs if no change was made, but would not guarantee jobs were safe even with the changes.

"We don't want to be going about cutting jobs, but obviously if leakage continues in main street Australia, it won't just be us, all retailers will be faced with that situation."

There has been no commitment yet from the Coalition government to eliminate or change the GST-free threshold, and any attempt to charge GST on items bought online could trigger a backlash from consumers.

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