Editorial | A blessing and a curse

Sunday shopping poses a threat to small retailers, but for some it could wind up stopping their decline

When the liberalisation of store opening hours came into effect last year, we didn’t hesitate to roll out the hyperbole. “October revolution”, we called the change, saying it would make it “easier to be a Dane”.

It appears we weren’t far from the truth. Although it wasn’t the overnight success we expected it to be, after just a year of Sunday shopping, most of the malls that initially held out, keeping their doors closed on Sundays, have decided that they can no longer stand by as their competitors attract shoppers.

Shoppers and shop-owners say the change has had a clear impact, with the number of people filling the aisles on Sundays now at about the same level as Saturdays. Their observations are backed by statistics showing the same.

All this only stands to reason. People want to shop when they have time, not when they have to. In other countries where similar shopping laws have been tossed, the gravitation to Sunday and evening shopping has followed the same pattern.

But while the consumer is the clear victor of the revolution, this is sadly not a change without victims. Prior to the liberalisation, the number of small retailers was already in decline, but the trend has apparently only accelerated over the past year. It’s reasonable to assume that the loss of their monopoly on Sunday shopping, their only advantage over major retailers, has been a significant contributor to this. But with the economy in its fifth year of recession, it’s hard to say whether the liberalisation is to blame for the store closings, or whether it has just hurried the decline along.

There are other reasons for why stores die off, not least cars and the increased mobility they give people, but few would recommend restrictions on driving as a way to protect stores. Instead of focusing on what’s wrong with Sunday shopping, those bemoaning the situation should seek to exploit its opportunities.

It’s true that in head-to-head competition against stores that have a wider selection and lower prices, small retailers can only appeal to consumers’ sense of community. But there’s no reason why smaller retailers located near a large store or supermarket can’t seek to benefit from the increased number of shoppers brought into their area on a Sunday.

Sunday shopping is convenient, and it’s what people want. It has an obvious disruptive effect on the retail market, but for those that are able to capitalise on it, it is also an opportunity.

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