The operation of retail stores on Sundays could benefit consumers to the tune of 309 million euros per year by strengthening competition, while creating 30,000 new jobs, Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis said on Thursday during a presentation of the ministry’s new bill on market operation, citing data collected by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The bill provides for the partial liberalization of opening times, following months of consultations and a political compromise reached between the ministry and minor coalition government partner PASOK, Hatzidakis explained.
It allows for the optional opening of all stores, including supermarkets, on seven Sundays each year, i.e. the last two Sundays before Christmas, the Sunday before Easter, and the first Sunday of each of the year’s four sales periods. In the case that an official holiday falls on a Sunday, stores can open the following Sunday.
Regional vice governors in each of the country’s 13 regions will have two months after the ratification of the bill to determine the other Sundays of the year during which shops can stay open, on the following conditions: Eligible stores should cover an area no bigger than 250 square meters, they should not belong to a chain of stores in any legal form, such as franchising, or operate as shops-in-a-shop, or form part of a shopping mall or a discount outlet.
If regional authorities fail to decide within those two months, stores will be allowed to open at will on Sundays.
In Athens, Thessaloniki and Piraeus the decision will rest with the cities’ mayors and not their regional vice governors.
The bill does not outline the exact hours that shops will be allowed to operate on Sundays nor the method by which this will be determined. Opening hours for the rest of the week are currently set by local tradesmen’s associations, with the law providing the maximum limits. Deputy Minister Thanassis Skordas said this may be decided during the parliamentary debate on the draft law.
Another article of the bill on the operation of the market changes the duration and the number of sales periods from two to four, or one in every season of the year: The first will run from the second Monday of January until end-February, the second in the first 10 days of May, the third from the second Monday of July up to the end of August and the fourth in the first 10 days of November.