The liberalization of Sunday opening rules for stores will start on a pilot basis in tourism destinations such as the islands of the Cyclades and Dodecanese, Halkidiki and Crete, as well as cruise ships ports of call such as Piraeus and Thessaloniki. Eastern Attica could also be included.
The lack of clarity in the regulation the Development Ministry has included in the multi-bill to be voted on in Parliament tomorrow evening leaves a loophole whereby areas such as the historical center of Athens or parts of Attica with major tourism investments such as Elliniko could be characterized as “touristic.”
The ministry’s regulation dictates that the minister can issue a decision up until June, following consultations with local professionals, which will determine at least three regions where the pilot application of full Sunday opening (for all stores, on all Sundays of the year) will apply for 12 months. This means there will be no limit to the size of stores (compared with the existing limit of 250 square meters) and no decision by the regional authority will be required. A monitoring entity will be appointed for the recording of comparative conclusions.
Market professionals estimate that safe conclusions can only be deduced in areas that have the following three features: a sufficient population, a high number of visitors and a low rate of tax evasion – i.e. where most enterprises issue receipts, as this is necessary to establish the level of turnover. It is precisely this last feature that makes it unlikely the measure will be limited just to the Cyclades and the Dodecanese.
Eastern Attica is a peculiar case. Major stock outlets and large chain stores operate there, particularly at Spata and next to Athens International Airport. Before the law voted on last year, a number of stores, mostly small and medium-sized enterprises as well as regional supermarket chains, opened on Sundays, effectively abusing the law regarding tourism areas: Stores opened not only in the tourist hotspots of Porto Rafti, Nea Makri and elsewhere, but also suburbs such as Pallini.
In November, the deputy regional governor issued a decision according to the 2013 law regarding the areas where stores of up to 250 sq.m. could operate on Sundays, resulting in heavy fines for enterprises that violated the legislation.