A Sunday Shopping Compromise?

I see that the question of whether or not to loosen up Manitoba’s Sunday shopping laws is making waves once again, with the Sunday edition of the Winnipeg Sun and then Monday’s edition of Richard Cloutier Reports on CJOB giving the issue extensive coverage.

This blog argued back in August that extending Sunday shopping hours could have some negative economic side effects. Unless the added employee-hours and higher labour costs were exceeded by an even greater expansion of economic activity, the end result of expanding Sunday shopping hours would be lower retail profits and lower employee productivity — both of which would be undesirable.

However, there is a way out that could placate both would-be Sunday morning shoppers and those concerned about reduced rest-and-relaxation time.

Just look across our western border to Saskatchewan.

While Manitobans are allowed two weeks’ annual vacation per year — the same minimum required in the Canada Labour Code and the labour laws of eight other provinces — Saskatchewan residents  get three weeks’ annual vacation per year.

It doesn’t seem to have hurt their economy one bit. Nor has it hurt Australia’s economy, which also dodged the recession in spite of labour laws that require Australian employees to be offered at least four weeks’ paid vacation per year.

Bringing Manitobans up to par with their Saskatchewan neighbours by giving them an extra week off would help offset any productivity loss caused by longer Sunday shopping hours.

Instead of spreading the same amount of buying and selling (or perhaps a negligible amount more) across more hours — which is a productivity killer — the goal would be to make up for the extra Sunday morning working hours by eliminating hours elsewhere and getting rid of some of the slack.

It would also be a crowd-pleaser — and a potential vote-getter for a provincial government which will be asking for a rare fourth term in the 2011 election.

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About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

3 Responses to A Sunday Shopping Compromise?

  1. Fat Arse says:

    Now that is an idea! THREE WEEKS OR BUST!

  2. cherenkov says:

    I would hate to poop all over this idea, but the labour environment in Saskatchewan is the main reason why the company I work for — a large multinational — has abandoned that province, and is in the process of abandoning Manitoba as well, having laid off dozens of people this year. An extra week of vacation, while good for my golf game, might not be good for employment levels in Manitoba.

    Plus … that doesn’t really solve the problem of stores themselves being less productive, unless I’m missing something, which is quite likely.

  3. theviewfromseven says:

    To deal with the latter point first, workforce productivity is simply an average: total economic activity divided by total hours worked. If a retail store expands its weekly employee hours by three to five percent, depending on how heavily they staff the Sunday morning shift, it needs to see sales increase by the same amount just to maintain the same level of employee productivity — unless you make up for the extra Sunday hours by taking hours out at other times of the year, in which case sales per hour worked should at least stay the same or increase.

    I don’t expect the retailers to take up the crusade for a third week of annual vacation. The government, however, should be in no rush to embrace a proposed extension of retail hours that even the retailers themselves are divided among themselves about.

    The government is also entrusted to negotiate on the public’s behalf, so there’s no harm in asking initially for concessions on behalf of those who aren’t looking forward to losing their Sunday morning sleep-in, and those retailers for whom a Sunday morning opening would not necessarily be a lucrative venture, but still necessary to avoid losing market share. If evidence turns up that Sunday morning shopping would be an overall benefit, then the government could be made to ease up on the concessions.

    As far as the economic impact of adding an extra week of annual vacation goes, there were three countries that raised their legal minimums from three weeks to four weeks in the past 12 years: Ireland (1997), Britain (1998) and New Zealand (2007). In all three cases, the increase caused no significant problems.

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