Most traders do not like idea of extending shopping hours Supermarket chains and merchants said yesterday that Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis’s idea of extending shopping hours as a means of battling unemployment, aired on Wednesday, would have the opposite of the intended effect. The Supermarket Enterprises Association (SESME) said in a statement the measure would raise operating costs for businesses, leading many of them to close down or lay off staff. Moreover, firms tend to pass extra costs on to the consumer. SESME said the present 12-13 shopping hours daily is «more than enough» and «an extension by one or two hours at most is strictly justified only for the period of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, again without opening on Sundays.» The current arrangements are based on a 1997 agreement between employers and shop assistants. The National Commerce Confederation (ESEE) said the idea was «out of touch with reality» and that increasing traders’ turnover requires greater disposable income which is not available. The Retail Enterprises Association (SELPE), however, which seems favorably disposed, said any extension of hours should not be accompanied by an obligation to increase staff. Greece lagging in information technology investment Greece lags behind other EU members in the drive to attain the so-called Lisbon criteria of high technology and innovation, which aims to make it the globe’s most competitive economic bloc by 2010, a study by business research firm Strategic International / K. Kataras said. According to the study, per capita spending on information technology in Greece in 2002 was 198.8 euros, or 23.9 percent of the EU average, and below impending EU members the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Cyprus; use of the Internet was only 26.4 percent but spending on telecom services 87 percent of the EU average. Mont Parnes Athens Resort Casino, a subsidiary of Hyatt Regency, yesterday officially assumed full managerial control of the Mont Parnes casino, which it plans to completely refurbish. The firm promised «a new entertainment center of the highest standards, with respect for the environment and Parnitha National Park,» and said new jobs will exceed 800. State-controlled Hellenic Tourism Properties (ETA) retains a 51 percent interest in the facility. Coke Coca-Cola HBC, the second-largest bottler of the drink worldwide, reported a net first-quarter group loss of 26.3 million euros, compared to a loss of 38.7 million in the same period of 2002. Turnover was down 5 percent to 800.6 million euros, attributed mainly to a slide of a number of currencies against the euro, such as those of Nigeria, Poland, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, where the firm is active. Operating income (EBITDA) was 10 percent up to 95.3 million euros. Flower tourism Environmentally friendly establishments of any category offering accommodation in the EU and meeting certain strict criteria can now apply to obtain the special flower sign. The EU Commission said such establishments have to use renewable energy sources, have a low consumption of energy and water and designated areas for non-smokers.