Sunday opening law to be put to the test

Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis on Thursday launched an attack against the tradesmen who are trying to block the opening of stores on Sundays, ahead of the first application of the measure voted in the summer set for this Sunday.

With the fall sales starting on Friday and lasting up to November 9, Hatzidakis stressed that Sunday opening, which will apply on the first Sunday of each sales period, will be so successful that in a year from now the reaction will be a thing of the past. Six in every 10 traders’ associations around Greece have decided against opening this Sunday.

“I know that certain people continue to moan. It’s alright. The complaining will be forgotten. What will stay with us is the positive change for the country, the market and consumers,” said the minister. Development Ministry sources went on to speak of “excessive hypocrisy,” referring to the reactions expressed by the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen and Merchants (GSEVEE). The same sources noted that the member enterprises of the confederation are those who mostly stay open on Sundays, such as restaurants, flower shops, pastry shops etc.

There was a similar reaction from a senior official at the ministry to the decision by the Federation of Private Employees of Greece to call a strike for this Sunday: “We believe it will have no consequences. It is good for us. It stresses that there are reactionary forces,” he said, having earlier noted that “the ministry is not the advocate of stagnation.”

The operation of retail stores this Sunday will be the first major test for the government as well as for tradesmen. It is interesting that certain major supermarket chains have decided against opening this Sunday. They are the Sklavenitis and Veropoulos chains, although the latter will operate three outlets which have a Jumbo toy store on the floor above them. The Marinopoulos, AB Vassilopoulos, Lidl and Metro (MyMarket) chains will be open.

Although the law allows for stores to open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., the Athens Tradesmen Association has proposed that shops open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., that of Thessaloniki from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the one in Piraeus from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m..

Regional authorities also have until November 8 to decide whether the stores in their regions can open beyond the seven Sundays the law provides for every year – i.e. two before Christmas, one before Easter, and the first Sunday of each of the four sales periods. This only applies in the case of stores whose total surface area does not exceed 250 square meters.