Saturday supermarket hours spark retail row

Saturday supermarket hours spark retail row
Photo: DPA
Ten years after Germany relaxed its laws on Saturday opening hours, supermarkets in the cities have cashed in on staying open longer, while in rural areas few remain open past 6.30 pm. Trade unions say workers are under too much pressure.

In major cities like Berlin, the trend has been towards keeping supermarkets open as late as possible on Saturday night. Supermarket chains Kaisers and Penny stay until just before midnight, while some branches of Lidl, Rewe and Real have opted to stay open until 10 pm.

It’s a different story in the countryside however. According to Hans Sterr of the Bavarian branch of trade union Verdi, few supermarkets in rural areas stay open past 6.30 pm. And, he says, “it works fine.”

Just a few years ago, Germany’s once restrictive Ladenschluss closing time laws saw many shops close as early as 2 pm on Saturdays.

The only states to have maintained the Saturday opening hours in place before 2003 are Bavaria and Saarland. “We want to prevent this bastion from being shot down,” said Sterr.

In some places, efforts are being made to reverse the trend of ever-longer opening hours. Earlier this month, North Rhine-Westphalia banned supermarkets from staying open past 10 pm. And in Hamburg, large shopping centres like the Elbe-Einkaufszentrum have even started to close at 8 pm. On Berlin’s major Kudamm shopping street, supermarkets have started closing earlier too.

Sterr says the trend towards longer opening hours has been accompanied by a “significant deterioration” in conditions for workers, especially for single parents, who struggle to balance family and home life with their working hours.

Figures show however that Saturday remains the most popular day to do the grocery shopping. In the first four months of this year, there were 32 percent more purchases and 57 percent more spent on Saturdays than on Mondays.

“Generally the day families have time to go shopping is on Saturdays,” Kai Falk managing director of the German retail federation said.

DPA/The Local/kkf

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