Too early to assess easing Sunday shopping limits: Minister

“We need to analyse trade for a month following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions before deciding on Sunday trading,” Deputy PM Jadwiga Emilewicz said on Wednesday.

The idea of temporarily suspending restrictions on Sunday trading was raised in the Social Dialogue Committee, a body representing employers, staff organisations and social pressure groups, its chairman Łukasz Bernatowicz said on Tuesday.

Overall retail trade in shops dropped by around 30 percent due to lockdown in March, with the greatest slowdown felt in the non-food sector, especially in shopping centres, which opened to trade again on May 3. However, things are improving - the number of customers in shopping centres on Saturday, May 16, was 10 percent higher than the previous week.

Some major stores have decided not to open their doors yet, suspecting that the drop in footfall will not make it worth their while to open unless they can renegotiate rents.

Shops like Castorama, the building materials retailer, are feeling the pinch. Its sales in Poland in April were down by 20 percent compared to last year, Wiadomosci Handlowe website reported. The drop came even though the chain’s 81 Polish shops were allowed to open on weekdays, subject to social distancing rules.

The Solidarity trade union, whose campaign had been behind the legislation which now closes all major shops on all but seven Sundays per year, is against the idea of a suspension of the limitation. The OPZZ union, which has the second largest membership and had opposed the legislation and had pressed for higher pay rates for Sundays instead, is now considering its position.

“We will see how online sales are increasing,” Mrs Emilewicz, who is also the Development Minister, said. “They were responsible for 5-6 percent of trade before the pandemic, and have risen to 20 percent in five weeks, so we are seeing a shift in consumer sentiment,” she added.

A study of the effects of the limitation of Sunday trading carried out in 2019 by the Ministry of Development indicated that money not spent in shopping centres on those days was being spent on recreation or in small privately-owned stores, which were allowed to open. At the same time PKO Bank Polski calculated on the basis of payment card transactions, that closing on Sundays cost the economy 1.1 percent of GDP, even though at that time shops could open one Sunday per month.

Comment:

Consumer spending is a key component of GDP for Poland and an overall fall in retail spending could cost the economy dearly. The structure of internet sales needs to be considered carefully. If Poles are buying locally online, as in the case of groceries, then the effect on the economy will be neutral, though jobs in shops may disappear.

If the increase is due to growth in purchases on Chinese sites such as AliExpress, or the German Amazon site, where the revenues will not be earned in Poland, then the Polish economy will suffer.


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