For the last couple of months, Poland has been submerged in an ongoing debate over whether shops should close on Sundays. Whatever the outcome, the reality speaks for itself – it’s better to leave Sundays the way they are, as the change wouldn’t be as beneficial for people and for the country as it’s believed to be.
So far, 19 out of 28 member states of the European Union have no restrictions concerning Sunday shopping; another 8 members of the EU have recently gotten rid of some of the strictest limitations. What’s more, all of the countries that entered the EU after 2004 fully allow for shopping on Sundays, but this may soon change, because Poland is considering introducing a few modifications to the effective law. The project has divided Polish society; the government supports the new regulations, although with some criticism. The conclusion is, however, that banning shopping on Sundays will do more harm than good, and here’s why.
According to a survey carried out for the Polish Council of Shopping Centers by PwC, the implementation of the project may cause a decrease in the volume of retail trade by 9.6 billion zloty, and in employment by about 36 thousand positions. This, in turn, will lead to lower incomes for the national budget, even by as much as 1.8 billion zloty.
As the study later reveals, the ban would be most harmful for the garment and shoe industries. The profits generated by shops that sell clothes or shoes, which are located in shopping centers, constitute half of this unit of trade in Poland. Their sales could decline by around 1.35 billion zloty, and around 6,400 people could lose their jobs.
Another serious problem is that the restaurants and other eating places would also experience a decrease in sales. Those located in shopping centers would earn around 451 million zloty less, and more than 1,800 employees may be fired.
The ban may also affect resort towns that depend largely on incomes from the several months of the holiday season. According to the Polish Council for Shopping Centers,
“during the holiday season, Sundays are the busiest days of all, because that’s when most tourists go on a trip. Some of them want, or even have to, do shopping. On the other hand, a lot of residents of the resorts make a living by trading on weekends that focuses especially on tourists”.
The organization also notices that
“the originators of the ‘Sunday shopping ban’ project as well as the government haven’t considered the potential consequences of the regulations for the resort towns, so both the scale of the decrease in employment and the financial loss of the local traders – for whom holiday season is the main source of income – is not known.”
As for consumers, the majority of their purchases come from weekend shopping, and these aren’t groceries, but rather more expensive and ‘long-lasting’ objects like household appliances or clothing.
As Bartłomiej Gabryś – a lecturer at the University of Economics in Katowice – notes,
“Having more time we often decided that we’ll go shopping on Sunday, review things, then make a choice. This choice on the one hand may be more pricey, but on the other the consequences of making a mistake are greater.”
He also admits that banning shopping on Sundays would raise the prices of many products.
There’s another group that would suffer if the government implemented the ban – the part-time workers whose only option for eking out a living is on weekends. This relates to full-time students, for example, who often struggle to manage their study schedules with work during the week.
However, for many, closing shops on Sundays wouldn’t be a disaster, but rather a possibility to focus more on social relations. This includes both customers and workers – some argue that it may make people cross out visiting shopping malls from their weekend plans and engage in other activities, for example, spending time with their families – something that they often find lacking in their busy lives. Also, it would give employees an extra day off to share with the loved ones. According to the survey carried out by Frisco, 25% of Poles would like to spend more time with their relatives.
But, as the sociologist Iwona Tyrna-Łojek says, the ban wouldn’t change a lot in this matter:
“The very ban on Sunday shopping won’t make parents spend more time with their children, take better care of them or build stable relations and family ties (…) Of course, a free Sunday may be devoted to enjoying the time with one’s relatives, but it all depends on the lifestyle of a family, and the prohibition has nothing to do with it.”
The question is: does Poland really want to close shops on Sundays? It seems that this project isn’t well-thought-out. The real problem isn’t whether someone works on Sundays or not, but rather for how much and on what terms. So maybe instead of banning Sunday shopping, a better idea would be to focus on the situation of the employees, offer them a pay rise for working on Sundays or shorten their working hours on these days. There are plenty of not so radical, minor changes that would improve the Polish job market, and such a huge revolution as this project assumes isn’t necessary at all.