Sunday trading debate opens up

A minister’s proposal yesterday to open retail stores for seven Sundays a year was met with a wave of protest from union groups, business owners and opposition parties that described the idea as favoring only the retail sector’s larger players. Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said that his ministry has been «inundated» by calls from consumers that are requesting store to be open on more Sundays during the year. «We are putting the proposal to public debate for stores to open two or three Sundays in December, after the church service,» said the minister, as he predicted opposition from the powerful Church of Greece. The other dates include two Sundays before Easter and two more during the summer and winter sales periods, he added. The Athens Traders’ Association (ESA) replied by saying that the proposal came at an inopportune moment and that it will not favor small or medium-sized enterprises. Despite widespread opposition, the government managed in the summer to extend the trading hours of retail stores on a daily basis. Surveys, however, show that business owners have so far shunned the freer opening-hours schedule, citing higher costs and low demand.