Small shop owners yesterday slammed the Labour Minister’s move to issue a new two-month decree for longer shop opening hours as a way to create unfair competition at their expense.
“We condemn the move to issue a new decree during this period when the matter is about to go to Parliament,” Kyriakos Moustakas of shopkeepers federation (Povek) told The Cyprus Daily.
“This creates unfair competition at the expense of the 12 categories of smaller shops for the benefit of major supermarkets,” he added.
He said a decision was made for the matter to go to the House of Representatives for a final say.
Moustakas argued that with the Minister’s decree special shops like butchers, bakers, kiosks, stores of convenience, confectionaries with a limited range of products lose the benefit of staying open for longer hours with major retailers taking over.
“In addition, the fact that major supermarkets and hypermarkets have the economic power to advertise their products and special offers all the time and attract consumers to their premises means they now have an extra advantage of longer opening hours to the detriment of smaller shops that lose this advantage,” Moustakas said.
Povek is taking the case to court and a decision is expected in March.
Echoing Moustakas, opposition Akel’s spokesman George Loucaides considers the Minister’s decision “unacceptable”.
“This abusive move is repeated in a provocatively one-sided way, which exclusively services the interests of a very small number of major businesses in the retail trade,” Loucaides said.
“At the same time, it harms the economy since it gives the final blow to small and medium businesses which at any rate have suffered a major setback as a result of the banking crisis and the bailout induced recession,” he added.
Loucaides appeared optimistic that government plans to change the law on the issue will lead the majority of parliament to stop this practice “which merely works for the benefit of major private interests”.
On New Year’s Eve Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou extended the current regime of late shopping hours for another two months until the issue can be regulated by law and not require a ministerial decree. Emilianidou said that longer shop opening hours in force since July had so far led to the creation of 1,800 new, mainly part-time, jobs.
The decree allows shops including those in non-designated tourist areas to stay open from 5am until 11pm from Monday to Saturday (including Wednesdays) and from 9am until 11pm on Sundays.