Editorial | An October revolution

Liberalising retail opening hours has its problems, but none of them are inevitable

The Danes suffered many casualties during the battle (photo: iStock)
October 6th, 2012 8:00 am| by admin
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You may not have noticed it, but October 1 will go down in history as the day it got easier to be a Dane. The date passed without much fanfare, but before long the effects of the liberalisation of retail hours will have a profound impact on the way people here live their lives. 

That change will be for the better. It is with a bit of remorse that we bid a final farewell to the days of quiet Sundays without any retail activity, but the reality is that Sunday shopping has long been an accepted part of the lives of most consumers. 

Amended numerous times in its 200-year history, the lukkelov had become so watered down that stores were eventually permitted to remain open more Sundays than they were forced to close.

Criticism of the change is not unfounded, however. Doomsayers who fear that major retailers will muscle smaller stores out of business need only look towards neighbouring Sweden to find proof of their claims. Experts there blame that country’s liberalisation of retail hours for a lack of local retail activity. Applied on a Danish scale, it is estimated that the same process will leave Denmark with only 25 centres of retail commerce. 

Preventing this process is entirely possible. Zoning laws already seek to prevent concentrations of retail activity by limiting how large retail facilities may be and where they are placed. These same laws could be used to ensure that retailers are spread evenly across the country.

Another concern is that employees could find themselves required to work Sunday shifts. Denmark’s strong unions, however, have a good track record of ensuring employee rights, and there is little to suggest that they would not be able to do so here. Incentives like higher wages for Sunday shifts are already in place, and protections against being fired for being unable to work at certain times could prevent employers from gaining an upper hand.

Moreover, with a lack of jobs at the moment, it’s more likely that many will snap up the opportunity to work extra hours. Should the economy heat up again and job seekers become scarce, managers will need to start asking mothers and fathers to take Sunday and evening shifts. We’re hoping, though, that this will lead to the next necessary revolution: the break-up of the childcare mafia and the introduction of a more parent-orientated, job-friendly mindset among daycare providers.

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