By Dimitra Manifava
A ministerial decision to green-light a pilot scheme allowing retail stores in 10 areas to open on every Sunday of the year – starting on July 13 – has created a split among Greek tradesmen. The way things are going, besides any unrest it may cause in the center of the capital this Sunday, the move is likely to generate confusion among consumers.
The representatives of small and medium-sized commercial enterprises are calling on shopkeepers to keep their stores closed this Sunday, while the association that represents retail chains has issued a short statement reminding its members that stores in the 10 areas can be open on Sundays “if they so wish.”
The Athens Traders Association is particularly concerned that if a number of commercial stores remain closed on July 13, consumers will think that they will not open next Sunday, on July 20, either. However, that date is the first Sunday of the summer sales, which begin on Monday, and according to the law passed last year all stores are allowed to open on the first Sunday of each of the year’s four sales periods.
As expected, the Federation of Private Employees (OIYE, which represents retail workers) has called a 24-hour strike for this Sunday in the commerce sector as well as a protest rally on Ermou Street in central Athens, the capital's main commercial district.
The federation has said that allowing all stores to open every Sunday will not help tourism, as the government argues, but will simply boost chain stores and multinationals operating in Greece.
OIYE has reacted similarly on other Sundays that stores have been allowed to open according to the 2013 law, but without securing the expected results. On those occasions, however, it had not formed a common front with the small traders, as is the case now.
According to the ministerial decision in question, the parts of Greece where stores can open every Sunday are the city centers of Athens and Thessaloniki, the towns of Pikermi and Rafina in Eastern Attica, the Halkidiki peninsula in central Macedonia, and on the Aegean islands of Rhodes, Kos, Syros, Myconos and Santorini.