Facing the risk of a big Boxing Day row that looked set to erupt due to plans by some retail chains in Greece to open the day after Christmas, Labor Minister Effie Achtsioglou hastened on Wednesday to introduce an obligatory holiday on December 26 for all enterprises that are usually closed on Sundays. Meanwhile retailers are asking for state protection when they do open on Sundays.
The minister’s decision puts an end to Spata-based discount designer outlet mall McArthurGlen Athens’s aspirations to open on Boxing Day, which would possibly have been emulated by other stores too.
The ministry’s statement said that the compulsory holiday was “a fixed demand of employee representatives,” though this had not convinced the same government to introduce it in 2015 or 2016. The decision is aimed at preventing ugly scenes and riots outside stores by unionists, as well as averting a domino effect that would see the widespread liberalization of restrictions on store opening hours.
It is that fear of violence that resulted in the Hellenic Retail Business Association (SELPE) issuing a public statement on Wednesday asking for businesses to be protected during Sunday opening. “Since everyone’s concern is sticking to law and order and keeping the peace, we are asking the Greek state and all entities involved to act as required so as to safeguard order and secure a peaceful atmosphere at stores on the coming Sundays (December 17, 24 and 31) across the country.” According to SELPE, “the biggest problem law-abiding enterprises face is not just the number of Sundays when they are allowed to open, but which among them can operate without being illegally prevented from doing so.”
The legal provision allowing stores in Athens and other areas in Greece to open every Sunday from May to October (except for the second Sunday of August) is only partially implemented as many shopkeepers fear that protesters will cause trouble.
The stores that did open every Sunday in September and October – mainly retail chains – enjoyed a relatively satisfactory increase in turnover.