NATURE OF RESPONSES AGAiNST SUNDAY SHOPPING:
Organized response played a very large role on the "No" side. A campaign of petitions launched by retail sector interests generated the largest volume of response.
Among retail merchants, the leading reason indicated for opposition to Sunday shopping was the prospect of reduced net profits caused by higher operating costs without corresponding increases in total sales. The loss to many owner-operators of their only day off was also cited as a major problem, as was concern for the loss to employees of their traditional day of rest. Many merchants felt that competition would force them to open whether they wanted to or not, insisting that the "choice" of whether to open would be more theoretical than real. Some merchants further from metropolitan areas expressed the fear that they would lose trade to larger centers. Convenience store operators objected that they would lose their core Sunday trade to larger grocery stores. Respondents for the major grocery chains themselves expressed the view that their own sales would not increase enough to justify their increased operating costs. (One respondent indicated that this had been the experience in New Brunswick.)
Hardware and building supply dealers and convenience stores were responsible for collecting the greatest volume of signatures in opposition to Sunday shopping. Some retailers in urban shopping malls were also active.
SUNDAY SHOPPING REVIEW
Many submissions opposed to Sunday shopping were received from retail employees and their families. The majority of these objected to the loss of the only common day of rest available to retail workers and their families. Many objected that regulatory clauses guaranteeing workers? rights to refuse Sunday work were for various reasons quite ineffective in practice. Lack of daycare and public transit services on Sunday were cited as examples of practical difficulties facing retail workers.
There was virtually no favourable response from retail employees, nor were there any responses from unemployed workers suggesting expectations of improved job prospects as a result of Sunday shopping.
After retail operators and employees, religious institutions were the largest source of organized response in opposition to Sunday shopping. The majority of organized church-based responses cited practical secular grounds for opposing Sunday shopping, focusing on the practical value of a common day of rest for families and individual workers, and often echoing positions expressed by retail merchants.
Nearly all municipal governments, local Chambers of Commerce and voluntary associations which responded were against Sunday shopping.
Individual responses opposing Sunday shopping predominantly cited quality of life concerns, although religious reasons were also an important factor in many cases. There was a clear general tendency in favour of status quo regulations permitting the Sunday operation of convenience stores, drug stores, and small tourism-oriented shops.
Among the "no" responses, about 50 were qualified, favoring limited seasonal or local relaxation of the Sunday shopping ban.
NATURE OF RESPONSES IN FAVOUR OF SUNDAY SHOPPING:
The much lower volume of responses in favour of Sunday shopping was essentially unorganized. The largest single source of positive responses was an ad hoc petition organized by retailers opposed to Sunday shopping. The "yes" response was, however, quite residual in this case.Submissions received during the first two or three days of the consultation exercise were split evenly between "yes" and "no" responses. However, once organized opposition began to come in, expressions in favour of Sunday shopping were enormously outnumbered.
SUNDAY SHOPPING REVIEW
Most "yes" responses favoured full-year Sunday opening, although some advocated seasonal opening only. These tended to favour the period before Christmas, and to a slightly lesser extent, during the tourist season. Few favoured limiting Sunday opening to particular geographic areas, except with respect to "tourism" zones.
Very few retailers responded in favour of Sunday shopping. Those who did included representatives of certain department store chains, as well as a "warehouse" wholesale/retail operator. These operators suggested that Sunday shopping is now the norm in Canada, and they indicated a belief, based on their experience elsewhere, that total sales would increase. One such respondent suggested that he had seen no evidence of employee resistance to Sunday work. Another stated that his firm offered employees a premium for Sunday work, and felt that labour standards legislation provided the most appropriate avenue for protecting workers? interests in this regard.
In addition to representatives of national and international chains, owners of a few small specialty shops also responded in favour of Sunday opening, on the grounds that retailers should be free to set opening hours according to their own reading of market opportunities.
Tourist industry associations were generally in favour of Sunday shopping, arguing that tourism interests would be better served. Sunday opening would provide an additional opportunity for travellers to leave money in the province, and would be more consistent with a "service" orientation.
Most submissions from individuals in favour of Sunday shopping cited convenience to the consumer as the main benefit. Some respondents said that their hectic and non-traditional schedules made it difficult to shop during regular opening hours.
Some individuals advocated "letting the market decide". Many expressed a concern that Nova Scotia was "backward" and that it should "join the modern world" by abandoning the prohibition on Sunday shopping. Tourist appeal was frequently cited, as was a belief that Sunday shopping would generate more part-time work opportunities for students and the unemployed.
The strong opposition expressed by substantial segments of the retail industry clearly suggests serious concerns.
The most commonly voiced objection holds that Sunday opening simply spreads the same volume of retail sales (or very slightly more) over a greater number of hours of operation.
SUNDAY SHOPPING REVIEW
Consumers? discretionary income, not time, is the factor which limits total retail industry sales volume. According to this position, if revenues increase at all) they do not increase sufficiently to offset increased operating costs. As a result, net profits decrease.
Retail sales tax receipts can be taken as a proxy for retail sales volume. It is reported that provincial sales tax receipts were in fact up somewhat in the last quarter of 1993 relative to the same quarter in immediately previous years. However, it would be difficult to state that this was due entirely to the temporary lifting of the Sunday shopping ban. Other factors were at play, including lower interest rates, an increase in consumer confidence and increased spending due to improved economic conditions.
As this report has shown, many factors have to be considered when reaching a decision on a Sunday shopping policy. Survey results clearly indicate that consumers want some measure of increased shopping convenience. This desire must be tempered somewhat by the concerns of retail owners, the impact on those who work in the retail sector and the overall impact on the economy.
in consideration of these factors, it is recommended that the Province maintain the current prohibition on Sunday opening pursuant to the Uniform Retail Closing Day Act. While this does not offer any increased convenience to the consumer, it does prevent any negative impact on the retail sector and the economy overall. Given current economic conditions, the costs associated with any changes to market conditions at this time could outweigh any related benefits.
N. S. Department of Finance -6- April, 1994
Save Our Sundays Group