The Polish government authorized stores to open this Sunday on an exceptional basis, while maintaining the almost total ban on working on a day that “is for family and prayer”, according to the majority Catholic Church and against the opinion of many consumers and businessmen. .
The Polish Minister of Family and Work, Marlena Maląg, recalled these days that her Government will maintain the prohibition, with few exceptions, of opening shops on Sunday, according to the opinion of the Catholic Church and the conservative Solidarity union, which presented a million signatures to support the measure.
In an interview with a television channel belonging to the Church, the minister admitted the possibility of starting talks with businessmen in the sector. But “to tell them that Sunday is not a day to spend in stores” and “to demand that they comply with the law,” she clarified.
Only religious articles stores, flower shops, shops located in stations or airports, courier services and small premises where the owner works are authorized to open on Sundays.
Since it came into force in 2018, this measure has been gradually imposed, and each year the number of “business” Sundays has been reduced, which will be only seven in 2022.
Entrepreneurs have tried to get around the ban with various strategies, from advertising “Sunday book clubs” in supermarkets to claiming the store is a “drive-in” in which employees simply “shelf items,” to stores that They offer postal services.
However, a legal reform in February put an end to these situations. Now it is required that, for example, a business must obtain at least 40% of its income with the activity that allows it to benefit from the exceptions to open on Sunday and the obligation to maintain separate accounts to detail its sales on those days.
To the complaints of the businessmen, the anger of many consumers is added, who according to a recent survey reject the restriction by 75%.
For Slawomir Szymanowski, who lives in a town near Krakow, there should be no conflict between considering Sunday a religious holiday and allowing commercial activity: “every Sunday, for ten years, I have come to Krakow with my family, we listened to mass in this city and after eating we loaded the car with purchases in a shopping center. It was a one hundred percent family day,” he assures.
Beata Berger, a veterinary student from Krakow, works ten hours a week as a cashier and says that it is mostly young people and students who benefit from working in shops on Sundays. “Losing that chance complicates my life, because I can’t take a day job,” she says.
A study published in 2021 revealed that the law, which among other things tries to defend family businesses against multinationals, can even be harmful for small premises: some 1,500 small shops close each year in Poland, while franchise chains such as the popular “Zabka” do not stop growing.
With a business model that allows the franchise to operate as an independent business, Zabka has multiplied its presence in Poland, going from having 1,700 stores in 2005 to over 8,500 in 2022.
In contrast, in all of Poland there were 29,200 small businesses in 2020 and only 27,600 a year later.
The Zabka are one of the few establishments to which the government recognizes the possibility of operating as parcel collection points, although they do not obtain 40% of their income, since the company negotiated an agreement years ago with the Polish Post Office to be able to do it.
In this way, visiting stores with the ubiquitous little green frog logo that identifies this brand has become the only option for Sunday shopping in Poland.
The accusations of favoritism towards Zabka from other companies are based on the numerous commercial sponsorships of this company to organizations close to the Church or the Government.
The Polish Catholic Church advocates the closure without exception of shops on Sunday, a day that “Catholics and non-Catholics need” to rest, according to Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki.
For his part, the Archbishop of Katowice, Wiktor Skworc, called for the closure of stores on Sunday as “a show of compassion towards those women who work in supermarkets.” “Not only do they need money, they especially need time for themselves and their families,” he argued.