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BLAKE DOYLE: Transparency and transactions

- Reuters

Two significant events should have transpired by the time this article hits the press. The legislature will have closed for the session and one of the biggest retail periods of the year will be well underway.

The resilient consumer has remained the most steadfast catalyst of the current economic expansion – an expansion which is now broadly based across all segments and not demonstrating indication of cooling off (notwithstanding U.S.-China trade tensions).

Analysts are watching holiday consumer purchases, and specifically, the continued transition to online retail versus traditional in-store purchases. Two seasonal shopping milestones this week will be Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Last year, Black Friday had transaction volumes of over $8 billion while Cyber Monday became a higher volume event with over $10 billion in sales. (Cyber Monday’s average savings are estimated to be 21 per cent while Black Friday savings are estimated to be 18.5 per cent, according to discount browser Honey).

By contrast Alibaba’s ‘singles day’ had transactions of over $39 billion in 24 hours.

How comfortable would consumers be to be making purchases but only able to see part of the sticker price, or none of the sticker price, or didn’t realize the items were even on sale? What if the price was visible but the retailer was not? This is a scenario P.E.I. government minister Bloyce Thompson is seeking to eliminate with his transparency legislation introduced this session.

All governments tend to talk about open data and information access, but the pendulum swings much slower than the election rhetoric, even in a fragile minority. For enterprise to compete in a fair market, information must be accessible and commonly available. (Removing government, its actors and related entities is still an area which requires much work).

In addition to the published, open datasets, which are being sporadically updated – a few glacial moves toward transparency did shift this week. One notable is sharing shareholding information for P.E.I. corporations, a lifting of the veil from residual PNP hangover last decade. The other being transparency in individual landholdings and linking corporation ownership structure to individual shareholders.

The insignificance of the change will have a meaningful impact on transparency but also land protection and enforcing compliance of ownership and corporate limitations.

Corporate shareholders will now be shared in a reasonably expected air of transparency. (Corporations can still be registered federally and outside the preview of provincial regulation).

By this time next week, the legislature will be closed and the registers will be tallied for seasonal sales kickoff. Then the festivities of a relaxing holiday season will begin.

Blake Doyle is The Guardian’s small business columnist.

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