The Uniform Retail Closing Day Act (the Act) currently restricts, with some exceptions, most retail stores from opening on Sunday in the Province. The Act was amended last Fall to permit Sunday shopping by all retail outlets, on a trial basis, between October 1, 1993 and December 31, 1993.
Since the end of the trial period, the Department of Finance has undertaken a review of the issues and conducted a wide range of public consultations on Sunday openings. A newspaper advertisement was placed soliciting the views, in writing, of Nova Scotians on this issue. Meetings were held with various retail and business groups and a random telephone poll was conducted. Results can be summarized as follows:
Written responses, primarily from businesses responding to the newspaper advertisement, totaled in excess of 9,000. The written responses in opposition to Sunday shopping dominated by approximately 30 to 1 and reflected, in large part, an organized campaign by certain retail organizations.
Most small and medium sized retailers who have written or been consulted with expressed an opposition to Sunday shopping. These businesses feel strongly that employees and owner-operators should have at least one day off during the week. As well, these retailers predict higher costs for their businesses as existing sales would merely be spread over seven days instead of six. This could lead to the loss of jobs, fewer retailers and higher consumer prices if Sunday opening were permitted year round. Retailers in rural areas expressed the concern that they would lose business to metropolitan areas on Sundays.
Tourist industry associations generally favoured Sunday shopping. They expressed the view that. increasing the shopping options for tourists would lead to increased tourism for the province.
Consumers and Others
The majority of positive written responses to Sunday openings resulting from the newspaper advertisement were from consumers who cited consumer convenience and increased part time employment opportunities for young people as the major reasons for a positive response. There was, however, a large organized response from religious groups opposing Sunday openings based on religious and quality of life concerns.
SUNDAY SHOPPING REVIEW
The results from the random poll were somewhat different. While the majority of respondents stated they did not shop on Sunday during the trial period, a majority also said they favoured Sunday openings, if not year round, at least on a limited basis.
The economic issues of permitting Sunday openings are complex and often contradictory Statistics suggest that Canadians in general, and Nova Scotians in particular, are "savers". This may lead one to believe that given an extra chance to spend money, some of these savings will be spent, increasing the size of the retail sector "pie". Many retailers would argue that, even if this were true, the increase in sales would be marginal at best.
The results of the consultation process provides little solid evidence for one side or the other. Retailers indicate that they saw no increase in sales as a result of Sunday shopping. In fact, very few Nova Scotians indicated that they spent more as a result of the Sunday openings. Yet, at the same time, provincial Health Services Tax showed considerable strength in the last few months of 1993, particularly in December. It is difficult to isolate whether this is due to Sunday shopping or a general improvement in economic conditions.
Sunday Shopping Policy
Taking all of these factors into consideration, the Province has decided to maintain the existing prohibition on Sunday openings. While this does not provide any increased convenience for the consumer, it does address the concerns of the retail sector and prevents any disruption to market conditions at a time when the retail sector is only starting to emerge from the recession.
N. S. Department of Finance
Save Our Sundays Group