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FpU weighs in on Sunday trading

The Progress Party’s youth organization Fremskrittspartiets Ungdom (FpU) took aim at the food barons behind Norway’s grocery chains, accusing them of having ulterior motives and protecting their own interests in opposing wider Sunday trading. FpU leader Atle Simonsen said retail giants NorgesGruppen and Reitangruppen which own Norway’s largest supermarkets also own the convenience stores which are allowed to open on Sundays, but charge much higher prices for goods.

atle simonsen fpu
FpU leader Atle Simonsen, pictured in front of one of the small stores under 100 square metres allowed to trade on Sundays. Simonsen argued employer organization Virke and Norway’s giant retail groups had a vested interest in keeping the laws against Sunday trading unchanged, because it forced shoppers to pay more in the groups’ convenience stores. PHOTO: Fremskrittspartiets Ungdom

Earlier this month, Thomas Angell from employer organization Virke told newspaper Aftenposten that the Conservative / Progress Party coalition government should not ignore the strong retail industry resistance to its plans to relax Sunday opening rules. Currently, stores must be closed on Sundays and holidays unless they are convenience or grocery stores in locations smaller than 100 square metres, in petrol stations under 150 square metres, gardening stores selling primarily plants, flowers and other garden wares, or tourist spots. The brustadbu rules grant small stores the right to stay open, named after the then Labour party (Arbeiderpartiet, Ap) minister Sylvia Brustad who implemented the changes in 1999.

“Virke slides the shops in front of itself and says that no one wants Sunday trading and that it will make for more expensive goods,” Simonsen responded on Sunday. “The truth is that Reitangruppen and NorgesGruppen get to sell less goods at sky-high prices in their convenience stores.” As Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported, NorgesGruppen owns kiosk chains Deli de Luca and Mix, Reitangruppen has Narvesen and 7-Eleven, and major supermarket Coop also has a number of shops that open on Sundays.

“The super-high margins they currently take on Sundays in these kiosks will be significantly reduced if all shops can be open, because people would rather go to regular stores on Sundays,” Simonsen told Aftenposten. “Reitangruppen and NorgesGruppen have Sunday trading currently, but they have it in places where they have the opportunity to take almost double payment. They cannot maintain that if all stores are opened.”

Concerned for trading structure
Virke denied Simonsen’s accusations, but accepted there was a time major employers made good money through Sunday trading. “Yes, previously you did,” Angell said. “Before the brustadbu shops, kiosks and petrol stations almost had a monopoly. But already today, kiosk trade is losing its share to the shops.”

He said the major groups that owned the convenience stores would obviously lose even more market share if all shops were allowed to open. “But what we are concerned with are the consequences for the whole trading structure,” argued Angell. “We currently have Europe’s most restricted online shopping, it is not likely that we can preserve that if we have Sunday trading. What this concerns, when we are so negative to access to Sunday opening, is that we are afraid this will go to loosening the structure. That will impact outlying stores.”

Norgesgruppen said it accepted some politicians for ideological reasons wanted grocery stores, clothing shops and so on to be open 16 hours a day, seven days a week. But trade policy and government relations spokesman Bård Gultvedt said it was also important for politicians to understand merchants needed free time too.

“Furthermore, it is hardly the case that people will shop very much more if opening hours are extended,” Gultvedt wrote in an email to Aftenposten. “The revenue for merchants will in other words be unchanged, while expenditure increases. The merchants are therefore rational players when they express skepticism towards Sunday trading.”

“If that was the logic, they would have chosen to remain open fewer days already to save money,” argued Simonsen. “All others are keen to have long opening hours to sell more. Furthermore, no one will force them to stay open on Sundays if they don’t want to.”

Sunday openings will improve profits
“It’s not right, what FpU claims here,” said Mette Fossum Beyer, communications director at the REMA 1000 supermarket chain owned by Reitangruppen. “We are positive towards opening our REMA 1000 stores if allowed. And it is politicians who decide if they want Sunday trading in Norway.”

She said the company’s experience in Denmark had been that Friday and Saturday trade spread across Sunday. “Like that the market did not particularly become much larger, but it was an advantage for us who did not have small shops, but relatively large stores, compared with all the brustadbu shops. In Sweden where we have 7-Eleven and Pressebyårn, they have had Sunday trading since the early 2000s. Sweden is Reitan Convenience’s most profitable country, so this is not a competition we are afraid of.” Woodgate



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