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Early tourist season will revive trade

14 April 2014 / 14:04:57  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

To open or not to open commercial sites in Greece on Sundays? Months after the pilot implementation of the measure on specific Sundays, namely a total of 7 per year, the controversy associated with the reform continues.

Once again, the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce announced that despite the rush of customers, turnover yesterday, which was the sixth working Sunday, was 10% lower compared with the beginning of the Holy Week last year. Its chairman Vassilis Korkidis acknowledged that the organization had not collected the data on yesterday’s results but expressed confidence that "in the best-case scenario turnover will be equal to that of the same period in 2013."

"We are still collecting the data on yesterday’s turnover of the 253 trade associations in Greece. I have to say that yesterday's Sunday was one of the few on which retailers themselves wanted to open their shops. We saw that many customers visited the shops but we do not have comparative data on consumption and turnover, as the shops were not open last year on Palm Sunday.

However, I can summarize by saying that yesterday the number of those satisfied was lower than those dissatisfied. In the best-case scenario, yesterday’s turnover was almost equal to that of last year. At first glance, it seems that it was 10% lower compared with the beginning of the Holy Week last year. These are the first data that we have. Yet we are to believe that turnover before Easter will help shops," he told GRReporter.

At the same time, Korkidis considers as positive the fact that the Catholic Easter and the Orthodox Easter coincide. "This means that the tourist season in many resorts will begin earlier than in previous years and this will also give impetus to consumption."

Many Greek commentators state that the National Confederation of Hellenic Trade is actually against the introduction of working on Sundays for commercial sites throughout the year. "We have agreed for shops to operate on seven Sundays a year and we have complied with this arrangement. I think these seven Sundays are more than adequate and maybe even some were in excess. When the cycle is complete we will strike a balance and see whether working on Sundays has had a positive or negative impact on trade," states Vassilis Korkidis.

Yesterday the main shopping street in Athens became the scene of heavy clashes between people protesting against the opening of shops on Sundays and the riot police forces. To repel the protesters who were urging the citizens not to shop the police used tear gas.


However, even the most explicit proponents of the abolition of all restrictions on the commercial activity cannot ignore the strongest argument against working on Sundays, namely complaints by employees that they do not receive any compensation. GRReporter asked Vassilis Korkidis whether this is a common practice among employers.

"It is a fact, but I want to believe that these cases are exceptions. Of course, this should not be allowed. The people who work on Sundays must receive extra pay of 75%. If we want to have turnover, we have to pay the employees what is defined by law. The money that employees receive is used again for the purchase of goods and thus it indirectly returns to us. Therefore, it is better for retailers to act properly. The fines for such violations are particularly high, namely 10,550 euro, and it would be better if no one takes the risk of becoming the subject of such a punishment."

In his words, the percentage of fines imposed is not high. "This means that the number of offenders is low. Here I have to note that some of our employees support us by understanding the delay in the payment for their work on these days. And we have to show respect for them in terms of this rather than to take advantage of them."

The next working Sunday for the shops in Athens and Piraeus will be in the summer, a day before the beginning of the seasonal summer sales. According to Korkidis, local retailers will then determine "which Sundays were good and which were not, when we should continue to open shops and when we should not. One mistake was to declare as days of operation the two Sundays before Christmas instead of the Sunday before New Year. This means that the first working Sunday in December should be cancelled and moved to the Sunday before New Year."

At the same time, by decision of the local district government, shops in Thessaloniki are open 10 Sundays a year. The municipality, however, suggests that their number be increased in order for shops to open during holidays of Greece's neighbouring countries, as Mayor Yiannis Boutaris stated last November in an interview for GRReporter.

Tags: EconomyCommercial sitesSundayTurnoverCompensationProtestNational Confederation of Hellenic TradeVassilis KorkidisThessalonikiYiannis Boutaris
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