NEWS

Shops shun extended hours

Most businesses in Athens have emphatically shunned the government’s recent extension of retail trading hours, data showed yesterday, as the government said more time was needed to assess whether the controversial measure would create more jobs. Results of a study conducted by the Athens Traders’ Association (ESA) at the end of September showed that about 92 percent of businesses in the city center and the broader Athens region said they have not changed their opening hours since the introduction of the measure in July. This summer, the government pushed through the law extending trading hours for retail stores amid cries of protest from union groups who said the extension will shortchange employees. Small businesses also challenged the measure, saying it favors the sector’s larger players. But the government stood firmly behind the change, saying it will create jobs and lift the economic competitiveness of Greece, which trails well behind its European Union peers. Asked if they plan to increase the number of operating hours in the future, 87 percent of businesses in the city center said they intend to keep their current schedules. Responding to the survey’s results, Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou said it shows that the measure has not shocked the retail industry into change but added that «it is too early to make any conclusions.» Following the introduction of the change in retail hours, the survey found that most businesses have not added staff, since their trading hours have stayed the same. However, some of the larger companies have added to their payroll. Sources said that retail home furnishings giant Ikea has hired 141 more staff in Athens and 84 people for its store in Thessaloniki due to its extra opening hours, while the supermarket Carrefour is also said to have added 537 people to its personnel. The survey was held between September 25-28 among 90 businesses in Athens city center and the broader region.