Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sunday Shopping

New Sunday Shopping Rules

Today marks the first day of the new shopping rules. The only party to campaign on opening up the law for local governments in Manitoba to decide was the provincial Liberals. The NDP and the Progressive Conservatives wouldn't touch the issue with a barge poll so as not to offend their base supporters in the unions and traditionalists and the religious respectively.

This is the problem of do nothing government and political parties beholden to their major funders. Neither the NDP or Progressive Conservatives wanted to act on this issue. None of them acted on behalf of the consumer.

So why did the law change? Well, it seems obvious that Manitoba having the toughest Sunday shopping laws in North America was not starting to damage the economy in the province. Also, with a bad news budget, the NDP were hoping to do add something that would be appealing to consumers in the province. The unions acted shocked and angry as to be expected.

The NDP have always done things half heartedly on the issue. It seems to stoke huge controversy with right and left incredibly angry about in 1987. What we ended up with at the time was the most miserable of laws that restricted large stores to four employees. However, once the law was enacted, people found it was convenient and useful.

The restrictions the NDP thought needed to be put in place were totally unworkable. They allowed Safeway to be open but with only four employees. It was an out and out catastrophe. Osborne Village Safeway was overrun and employees couldn't handle it.  They got in trouble just for hiring a security guard for their packed parking lot as that was counted as more than four people.

The NDP government of the day acted helpless to to do anything about the mess they created. Obviously, the law was changed in later years if for no other reason than it was unworkable.

And so Manitoba had the same old law from Noon to 6 with only minor changes over the years.

No nothing government until the province is the last one left behind. The two big parties not speaking on behalf of consumers.

However, is it all abut the consumer? No. This is a vital economic issue. The NDP has had ample evidence over many years on the impact of Sunday shopping. The British study back in 2006 showed  the increases in economic activity and impacts on various elements.

Robert Warren said the incremental changes were needed and the NDP acted smartly. As brilliant as the man is, he can be wrong as noted by his belief that Ikea would never come to Winnipeg. He had solid evidence the big retailer's past actions made them an unlikely candidate for the city but ultimately he was wrong. Ikea had such solid sales in the province catalogue-wise and were missing sales left and and right due to not being able to ship certain products. It didn't take long for the company to consider the possibilities of what a store would be like and they didn't just put a tentative toe in. The store is a giant.

With respect to Mr. Warren, his thoughts that the malls need to be kept in check with some restrictions belies the fact that where no restrictions are in place, retailers often limit their own hours anyway. No doubt he has the same economic impact studies as I have seen but Manitoba is a special case? I can't agree.

The changes to the act allowing for 9 to 6 shopping will be appreciated by those who are standing in lone line ups at noon to pick up items at the store. I have been in those lines. Not fun. I have worked Saturdays for much of my life. I can't always get some grocery items other times. Sometimes Sunday was a good day for the family to get together to do household shopping since more people were likely to have the time off.

A Free Press column on Sunday shopping ended up stating that some Sunday shopping amounts to a  personal failure somehow. A tenuous link to Sunday shopping and debt is made. I guess you can make that link if you want. I guess you can make the link between Sunday restaurants and obesity too. Or Sunday football and divorce. Or Sunday newspapers and depression.

I think the reproval of some people on Sunday shopping will not change. Nor will do nothing government beholden to special interests to change the law only when the damage is evident to looking at the stream of traffic heading south or shopping online.

The NDP government has a problem in this province with an exodus of shoppers. Their timid response is insufficient. Some stores like Menard's are the busiest in the U.S. in part because of their actions. The pick-ups at the border because of their inaction grow and grow.

Who speaks for the consumers of this province? Why are we at the back of the pack always and forever? The people saying moving slowly is good on this issue don't seem to realize the house is on fire.

Let retailers set their own times.


Anonymous said...

They totally missed the mark on this Sunday hours thing. They should've changed the law to allow stores to stay open LATER NOT EARLIER. Who needs to go shopping @ 9 am on a Sunday? Extend the hours to say 9 pm.

Prairie Wanderer said...

I'm not sure how the connection is made between cross-border shopping and extended shopping hours on Sunday. People are not going to the States to shop because of our Sunday shopping hours. They're shopping in the States because it's cheap, not convenient.

The only people this may benefit (apart from businesses themselves and the consumers who want this) are part-time employees who may get a few extra hours a week (which may be unlikely as many retail workers are already working full days on Sunday before the doors open stocking shelves and whatnot).

If this is what consumers want, that is fine. But this isn't really going to stimulate anything. People only have so much money to spend in a given week. Extended Sunday hours will make shopping slightly more convenient, but that is all.

John Dobbin said...

The studies back in the 1980s (when the law was first enacted) showed exactly a link between when shopping could take place. It was cited by many people at the time as a inconvenient. North Dakota's change to more liberal Sunday shopping had a huge role in Manitobans travelling down there.

The larger studies done worldwide also have shown a link to migration of people to where Sunday shopping was available.

When Manitoba first enacted the law, it was said that the economic and employment impact would be small and would take away from other parts of the week. This proved to be completely false. It was a huge boost to the economy as some in the industry have already indicated.

The Manitoba government didn't do this because it was just convenient. They defied the unions because the numbers were too big to ignore and they have said so themselves.

reedsolomon.matr1x at said...

I agree that stores should be allowed to stay open later, as that would suit me better, but there are people who want it to be earlier. Someone who say needs to go to Home Depot or Walmart for a part to fix their toilet and wants to get it done first thing in the morning before spending the rest of the day at the beach instead of having to wait til noon to get anything done. 9 to 9 would be reasonable. Most stores aren't going to be open anyways. Just like on Saturdays many stores and malls seem to close early even when not required to.

Anonymous said...

We should have stores open 24 hours, 7 days a week, then everyone could shop when they wanted to, it's wrong for the government to tell us when we can and can't shop