Retail Opening Hours: Regulation That Fails

Out of thirty European countries, sixteen allow retail trade on Sundays, whereas fourteen do not limit retail opening hours on public holidays. The countries which regulate retail trade on Sundays and/or public holidays apply a range of exemptions, suggesting that navigating among the varying interests of workers, consumers, and businesses poses a challenge. In recent years, many European countries have chosen to deregulate, acknowledging that the regulation has failed to a lesser or greater extent.

Since 2012, nine European countries have taken measures to liberalize the regulation of retail opening hours: Denmark, France, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Malta. Meanwhile, Hungary and Poland introduced restricting regulations in 2015 and 2018 respectively. Yet, in response to public backlash, Hungary removed its fresh restrictions on retail opening hours
a year later.

The European Commission too is sounding the alarm bells and urging member states to abandon the regulation of retail opening hours before e-commerce destroys brickand-mortar stores and forces their employees to protest on the streets. The European Commission has warned that a tightening competition between traditional retail and e-commerce is already challenging the labor market to adapt to rapidly changing conditions in the retail sector.

Lithuania has recently seen vigorous proposals to ban retail trade on Sundays and public holidays, seemingly trying to catch the train from which Europe is rushing to disembark. If retail companies were forced who do their shopping on Sundays and 70% who do their shopping on public holidays.

The retail sector with 10,000 companies and 120,000 employees would have to bear its costs too. In the meantime, data suggest that the regulation of retail opening hours has serious implications for consumers, workers, businesses, public finances, and the economy at large. Therefore, it is worth investigating what the implications are for all these agents.

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