By Maria Gregoriou
LEADING retailer Nicos Shacolas said yesterday that extended opening hours, and Sunday openings had improved business and given consumers more flexibility.
In a written statement, Shacolas, whose business group includes Debenhams, Next, Peacocks, IKEA and the Mall of Cyprus, said the government’s decision to extend opening hours as a means of helping the sluggish economy, had been the correct one.
The labour ministry issued a decree on July 9 for shops outside tourist areas to stay open until 10pm on week days and from 9am until 9pm on Sundays.
According to Shacolas’ statement, on the first Sunday when shops stayed open – July 14 – there was a vast amount of buying being done all over the island.
“This was even seen in Nicosia, from where a large section of the population goes to the seaside or to mountains over the weekend,” he said.
Shacolas referred to satisfactory revenue made by the group, especially at the Mall of Cyprus and IKEA through the extended hours.
“Certainly in the future results will be better as many small, medium and large businesses did not have the time to organise the opening of their stores on the first Sunday,” Shacolas said.
“All this will generate revenue for the state by extending the exchange of money by one extra day, significantly reducing unemployment by creating jobs to cover the extra working hours,” he added.
He also said the Shacolas Group had recruited a large number of unemployed individuals who were currently being trained.
“The group estimates that 60 per cent of workers in stores on Sundays will be new recruits. This includes young people who seek employment during the summer. Priority will be given to people who speak Greek,” the statement added.
Apart from staff to be employed within the stores, the Group will also hire extra guards, cleaners and maintenance workers, Shacolas said, adding that the decree would also lead to a reduction in prices.
Income from tourism would also increas.
“These new shop opening hours will serve thousands of tourists throughout the island and enable them to spend more,” he said.
Pointing to data from Europe, Shacolas said that in many European countries where shops are open on Sundays, the weekend turnover was greater than that of other days during the week.
“Statistically, 50 per cent of consumers who live in countries with this kind of shopping timetable,take the opportunity to shop on Sundays,” he said.
Commenting on the rights of workers, he said the news hours should not impinge on them, adding that the authorities would be performing systematic checks, and that workers had the right to report any violations.
He said it was only a matter of time before the new opening hours were accepted by everyone.
Small shopkeepers union POVEK has said the new opening hours would not bring about the desired results of “rejuvenating the market and supporting employment”.
Rather, it was large businesses and owners of malls and chains that would benefit at the expense of small businesses, said the union.
“In practice, implementing this decision will close down businesses, increase unemployment and will not help the real economy,” POVEK said.
Major trade union PEO also criticised the move, saying it would hurt workers who would be pushed into working irregular hours. Personal and family lives would become unsettled by implementing the decision which would mostly affect women, who tend to be employed in the retail sectors, said the union.