In one week, Poland will close a loophole that has allowed many large retail chains to evade a ban on Sunday trading by offering postal services.
Supermarket giants including Carrefour, Kaufland and Netto, which have been exploiting the exemption, have announced that they will now no longer keep their stores open on Sundays.
The trading ban, which obliges shops to close on all but seven Sundays a year, was introduced in 2018. There are, however, a number of exemptions, including for businesses that offer postal services. That prompted many big chains to start offering such services to remain open.
That practice angered the Solidarity trade union, which had initially proposed the trading ban with the support of the Catholic church. It pressured the government to close the loophole.
That finally happened last year, with President Andrzej Duda signing legislation in October that will now require postal services to account for more than 40% of the revenue of a given premises for it to qualify to remain open on Sundays. The new rules will come into force on 1 February.
Moreover, the finance ministry has announced a requirement for businesses seeking to continue using the exemption to keep monthly records of sales for each commercial outlet separately, even when they own several in a chain.
Among the 25 large firms to have taken advantage of the loophole are supermarkets Lidl, Auchan and Biedronka; DIY stores Castorama and Leroy Merlin; and Poland’s largest bookstore network, Empik. Many of these, however, have now said they will limit their openings.
A spokeswoman for Kaufland, Maja Szewczyk, told TVN24 that it would close its stores on Sundays, but warned that “if the competition continues to use solutions that allow for trading seven days a week, our network may again be forced to take similar steps”.
Netto has also confirmed that its 600 locations would be open only six days per week from February, as well as on the seven permitted trading Sundays in the year, which in 2022 fall on 30 January, 10 and 24 April, 26 June, 28 August, as well as 11 and 18 December. Lidl and Biedronka have not commented on their plans, reports TVN.
Meanwhile, Carrefour has said that it is not planning to keep its stores open on Sundays after the new rules come into force, but noted that its franchisees will be able to make their own decisions by using other exemptions to the trading ban that will still be available.
Żabka, a large network of convenience stores that pioneered the postal service exemption and successfully defended its case in court, has in a similar vein said it would leave decisions up to its franchisees, who may still keep shops open on Sundays provided that the owner or specified family members are behind the till.
With the new legislation, most of the 32 original exemptions will still apply. As before, specialist shops selling press, souvenirs or religious items, as well as certain other businesses, including florists, pharmacies and petrol stations, can remain open.
The newly introduced amendment also expands the list of family members who can work in shops on Sundays. As well as the owner’s spouse, children, parents and stepparents, their siblings, grandchildren and grandparents will also be allowed to work.
Main image credit: Slawomir Kaminski / Agencja Gazeta
Maria Wilczek is deputy editor of Notes from Poland. She is a regular writer for The Times, The Economist and Al Jazeera English, and has also featured in Foreign Policy, Politico Europe, The Spectator and Gazeta Wyborcza.