Sunday, 6 April 2008

Opening hours

In Belgium, a year and half ago, a governmental urgent decree was necessary to allow hair dressers to be open on possibly their most profitable day, i.e. 31 December (which happened to be a Sunday).

In Italy, cleverer hair dresser regulation (and tradition) has chosen Monday as day off. However there may be something of a "cultural revolution" going on, as the Italian press called it. The Italian Competition Authority has stated (sorry, Italian only) that legislation limiting shop opening hours is restraining competition by reducing the possibilities of shop owners to diversify their marketing strategies.

The statement came as a reaction to the Rome city regulation liberalising opening hours during holidays, but only on 1 November and 8 December, thus excluding Easter Monday (and Ferragosto, for that matter). The Competition Authority has now called for complete liberalisation.

While someone may be already dreaming of American-style 24/7 shopping (very unlikely, I would venture) and fierce competition in services for consumers, it must be said that a number of other obstacles remain, such as, in particular, very high labour cost for over-time work.

Yet, maybe this kind of liberalisation will contribute to a shift from the "imported" practice of spending Sundays in the new big shopping malls, back to the good old Italian habit of strolling along shopping streets.