Opposition to Polish Sunday trading ban grows

According to a recent survey produced for Polish daily Rzeczpospolita, a growing number of people are against Poland’s Sunday trading ban. The survey claims that 36 per cent of respondents are now in favour of removing the trading ban altogether, compared to just 19 per cent who are in favour of retaining the ban.

The Sunday trading ban came in to force in 2018, but as part of the transition to the new rules, the ban allowed for two trading Sundays a month. As of January 2019, this changed to only one trading Sunday a month. If the Polish government keeps to the current schedule, by 2020 there will be a total trading ban on Sundays.

The ban has reportedly had an opposite effect on the small businesses it was designed to help. According to Rzeczpospolita, the stores that are benefiting most from the trade ban are shops at gas stations and discount retail stores, due to their heavy expenditure on marketing, advertising and promotional campaigns.

“The number of small outlets is decreasing , although the law was designed to help them. In 2018 alone, about 11,000 shops ceased to operate on the Polish market, according to data from the Bisnode Polska business intelligence agency,” writes Rzeczpospolita.

According to the owners of small stores, Sunday turnover has decreased by 20-30 per cent. However, while this is painful, what has caused more issues is the loss of business during weekdays to discount retail chains.

However, the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party’s spokesperson for SMEs, Adam Abramowicz, argues that there is no correlation between the decline in the number of small stores and the Sunday trading ban.

“It is reported that last year, several thousand small shops closed. But in the year before the introduction of the trade restrictions on Sundays, over 12,000 stores were closed, and in previous years it was similar. Therefore, it is not related to the law, but to a trend that has been going on for many years,” said Mr Abramowicz.

However, a number of business groups have criticised the rigid approach taken by PiS. The Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers (ZPP) indicates that the Polish government, when deciding to adopt such a law, chose a very restrictive option, without solutions that could mitigate its implementation.

“From the very beginning, we were critical of the draft law limiting trade on Sunday. We pointed out that such a sectoral form of regulation would in no way serve most employees. We also emphasised that it certainly will not help small stores, but rather the opposite, it will lead to a wave of bankruptcies. Today we see that we were right,” Marcin Nowacki, vice president of ZPP told Rzeczpospolita.

However, change could be on the way in the near future.

“If owners of small stores clearly communicate that it is important for them to remove the trading ban and that the model from 2018 was sufficient, and if such analyses are unambiguous, then a statutory adjustment is possible,” said Jadwiga Emilewicz, minister of entrepreneurship and technology.

“The ministry of labour has appealed to many companies and organisations for data showing the impact of the ban. It is not known whether this is related to the work on the amendment tightening the law, which is already in the Sejm [the Polish parliament], or if it has to do with something else. Many studies show the same, and in an election year the party cannot afford to ignore these results,” an anonymous source close to the ministry told Rzeczpospolita.

Its not only consumers who are in favour of changing the current trade ban, employees are also in support as this would mean that they would be entitled to have a day or two off during the week to run errands or deal with other personal issues.

A similar ban in Hungary was repealed soon after it came into force in the face of strong opposition.

While the abolition of the trade ban in Poland would placate many consumers and even employees, experts believe that the ideal solution would be reverting back to a model where trade was allowed on two Sundays a month.

“If the results are confirmed, it may be possible to return to the variant with two trading Sundays prior to the election later this year. I do not believe in abolishing the ban, it is too important a project,” explains Andrzej Faliński, president of the Economic Dialogue Forum.

“Poles do not want the balance to lean towards further restricting trade, limiting them to two commercial Sundays a month seems optimal,” said Adam Czarnecki, vice president of ARC.