A new framework for the operation of the retail sector introduced for public consultation on Monday prompted a negative response from small and medium-sized businesses, despite assurances by Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis that the aim of the new regulation is to boost the competitiveness of small businesses eclipsed by large retail chains.
The new framework regulating the retail market lays the foundations for the gradual liberalization of operating hours by giving the option to small businesses – defined as those whose premises are up to 250 square meters – to stay open on Sundays on the condition that they do not belong to a retail chain or have the status of a shop-in-shop.
The aim of the option, according to the Development Ministry, is to protect small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which saw a 11.8 percent year-on-year drop in turnover in September.
The Confederation of Greek Small Businesses and Traders (GSEVEE) responded with sarcasm. “Finally a proposal that allows time for the country’s 1.3 million unemployed to go for a bit of shopping therapy,” one official remarked.
Other critics, including the union representing private sector workers and the National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE), said that the new framework was too vague and open to legal complications.
According to Deputy Development Minister Thanasis Skordas, shops operating as franchises, within malls or as shops-in-shops will not have the right to extend their opening hours beyond the current limits. He conceded however that this would stop around 10 percent of SMEs from benefiting from the measure and suggested the regulation be further fine-tuned.
The new framework also foresees four annual sales periods rather than the current two as well as allowing shops to stay open seven Sundays a year (compared to two Sundays currently).