Store opening hours enter campaign debate

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City leaders in the Conservative-run cities of Oslo and Bergen want to allow stores to open for business on Sundays, and the Conservative Party looks favourably on liberalizing laws that now keep them closed. The current left-center government opposes more liberalization, clearing the way for store opening hours to sail up as a campaign issue.

Stores are only allowed to open at present under various exceptions to the ban on Sunday business that have to do with their size, their line of business (gardening, for example) or if they are considered to be located in areas frequented by tourists. Large grocery stores, for example, must remain closed while large gardening centers can open along with food vendors near museums and small, convenience-sized stores.

Kristin Halvorsen, a government minister from the Socialist Left Party, told state broadcaster NRK over the weekend that she fears store openings on Sundays for all retailers will put more pressure on Norway’s labour force, and draw workers away from areas where they’re most needed like health and elder care. Labour leaders have also opposed longer opening hours for stores, despite the jobs such liberalization would create.

Conservative leaders scoff at their arguments, and the city leaders in Oslo and Bergen are already applying for status as tourist centers to be allowed to open on Sundays and holidays. Both Bergen and Oslo are large tourist destinations, they argue, and should have the same status as smaller tourist towns. Many retailers themselves have long argued that the various exceptions to the Sunday ban are unfair, and some have opened in protest simply  to challenge the current ban.

An overall liberalization of store opening hours faces challenges, though, even if the Conservatives win the upcoming parliamentary election. One of their potential government coalition partners, the Christian Democrats, remains opposed to store openings on Sundays and is expected to file objections.

newsinenglish.no staff