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Never on Sunday

25 April 2013 / 20:04:45  GRReporter
2426 reads

Victoria Mindova

In the sixth year of negative economic results, the struggle for work on Sundays in Greek commercial sites is continuing. Stores across the country remain closed on Sundays. So far, three governments have been unable to overcome the resistance by small traders against the new measure, which could give additional impetus to the shrinking economy.

For the moment, the tripartite government led by New Democracy has taken a neutral stance on the issue. It has proposed the introduction of seven official working Sundays throughout the year for small and large traders. They will be during the Christmas and Easter holidays and during trade discounts. On the remaining 45 Sundays a year, only small shops that have a total sales area of less than 250 square metres will have the right to work. The aim is not to allow large shopping centres and malls to take away the clientele of small shops.

The proposal for liberalisation of the trade sector came from the mission of European creditors and the International Monetary Fund as part of the project on the reform of the domestic economy. The greatest resistance to this measure comes from trade and craft unions. Greece will keep the current working time, according to which stores are open until 3 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. On the other weekdays, they are closed between 3 p.m. And 5 p.m. and on Saturdays they work between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

"In times of crisis, there is no reason to restrict the market, especially in a sector that can have a positive impact on the local economy," was the position of President of the Union of tourism enterprises Andreas Andreadis. He defended the stance that the government should give the green light for traders to open their shops on Sundays for whoever wants to work; anyone who does not want to work is not obliged to.

In the period before the crisis, the country's economy was largely supported by cheap international lending and the consequent high demand. By 2008, Greece maintained high negative trade balance, which exceeded 30%. With the shrinking of the market, demand fell, but the deficit between imports and exports shrank significantly. The idea to promote domestic consumption of domestic products is becoming increasingly popular. Within the reform, representatives of tourism businesses want to strengthen Greece’s position as a trademark for quality services. For this purpose, they want to offer a wide range of services also including the "city break" package. It offers a short stay in big cities of the country and, among other attractions, includes museums, commercial sites and shopping. Opening stores in the country on Sundays will further enhance the competitiveness of Greek tourism packages, according to the sector.

This position of the tourist Union is encountering a resounding "No" from retailers.

"The proposal has been very clear to us from the very beginning of the dialogue. We agree to work seven Sundays a year during national holidays and discounts. Let's see if the formula works. If there are good results, we will also agree to remove the break on Sundays for traders. Is there a blind man who does not want to see again?" said for GRReporter Vassilis Korkidis, Chairman of the Greek trade union.

He insisted that the opening of shops on Sundays will burden small- and medium-sized retailers with 1.8 billion euro additional costs per year. Small businesses have traditionally remained a family business in Greece and their representatives believe that working on Sundays will only burden their operating costs, and not bring the expected sales.

"We don’t want to fight for working on Sundays in Greece. We want to focus on more important issues. We want to fight for the survival of commercial sites for greater market liquidity and better prices," commented Korkidis. He denied the likelihood that working on Sundays will have a positive impact on the sector. Behind the proposal for market liberalisation, he sees a plan for the destruction of small traders and refuses to accept the measure, supported by tourism.

"What more can we offer foreigners if during their stay in the country shops remain closed," asked rhetorically specialists in the tourism sector.

Tourism in Greece brings an average of between 15% and 17% of GDP per year. According to recent studies, its contribution to the economy can increase by between 20% and 25% if the right actions are taken. One of them is attracting cruise excursions to Greek ports, which will increase the total number of tourists in the country and boost the local economy. This type of tourists spends fewer hours on land where they want to walk, go sightseeing and buy a souvenir from Greece. The current working hours of trade facilities do not help the development of tourism, hoteliers and travel agents say.

Another problem that business people want to be resolved is the level of VAT on tourist services and related industries. "The increase in VAT on tourism was a huge mistake," said Andriadis. He pointed out that it was the decision of the Greek government - it was not imposed by the supervisory Troika, as the government wants to present it at the moment. "Markets in which we compete in the region have a VAT rate of between 8% -10%. In Greece, it remains 23%," he said and emphasised that this should change by the middle of the year.

Tags: Economy markets shops working hours Greece tourism
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