Minister defends decision to extend shop opening hours; banks to follow

The government yesterday defended its decision to allow shops to extend their opening hours by one hour from Mondays to Fridays and two hours on Saturdays and indicated that it would look favorably on an extension of banks’ opening hours as well. Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou presented data from the National Statistics Service (NSS) showing that employment in the retail commerce sector gained 2.4 percent in the third quarter of 2005, compared to the same period in 2004, and that sales increased 3.4 percent, compared to 0.8 percent in the eurozone. Papathanassiou presented the data to counter arguments by the Association of Supermarket Enterprises of Greece (SESME) which said that a survey of its members showed that the longer opening hours have not increased employment, only costs, and that only large multinational chains can afford the extra cost. SESME members also opposed proposals to open on certain Sundays. «Official data show that the new opening hours have created new jobs… SESME’s survey merely confirms what is self-evident: that those firms that reacted defensively and did not take advantage of the new opening hours neither created jobs nor increased their turnover,» Papathanassiou said. Deputy Labor Minister Gerasimos Giakoumatos said yesterday that «conditions have matured» for banks to open longer hours. He was replying to a demand by bank employees’ union OTOE to force EFG Eurobank to stop operating its branch at a new shopping center on Saturdays.

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