Poland adopts gradual ban on Sunday shopping

Poland adopts gradual ban on Sunday shopping

Poland shopping
This file photo taken on August 29, 2016 shows Russian shoppers carrying bags at a supermarket in Braniewo, a town near Poland's border with the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. (Photo: AFP/Damien Simonart)

WARSAW: Poland adopted legislation on Friday (Nov 24) that will ban most Sunday trading by 2020, with opinion surveys showing that consumers have mixed feelings about the move in the heavily Catholic EU state.

First presented last year by Poland's Solidarity trade union as a citizens' initiative bill, the new legislation limits shopping to the first and last Sundays of the month as of March 2018.

Trade will only be allowed on the last Sunday of the month in 2019 before a wider ban takes effect in 2020 that will allow shopping on seven Sundays per year, including two before Christmas and one before Easter.

The move applies to foreign-owned hypermarket chains as well as other non-Polish players, but will still allow online shopping as well as smaller locally owned shops including bakeries and petrol stations to do business.

Lawmakers in Poland's right-wing dominated 460-seat parliament passed the ban with 254 votes in favour to 156 against and 23 abstentions.

The Solidarity trade union says it sought the move to ensure retail staff get free weekends, but opposition politicians and other critics argue that it will limit job opportunities for students and cramp cross-border shopping from the Baltic states, Belarus, Ukraine and Slovakia.

Solidarity is allied with Poland's governing conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, which is closely tied to the powerful Roman Catholic Church, long an advocate of shutting shops on Sundays for religious reasons.

Sunday shopping became a popular family pastime in Poland with the advent of the free market after the 1989 collapse of communism, but surveys published this week suggest that consumers have mixed feelings.

The independent Kantar TNS pollsters found that 76 percent of respondents supported a compromise that would allow Sunday shopping, but also give retail workers two free weekends per month.

However, the Warsaw-based CBOS agency found that 58 percent of respondents supported a blanket Sunday shopping ban, while just 37 percent were opposed. It also found that 52 percent of respondents said they shop on Sunday.

Switzerland and Norway limit Sunday shopping, while Austria has a blanket ban.

Up to now, stores in Poland have remained closed for 12 days a year for major national or religious holidays.

Source: AFP/hs