May 25, 2022

Supermarkets are rebranding themselves as bus stations and book clubs to escape Sunday trading ban

After the government closed a loophole that allowed retailers to escape Poland’s Sunday shopping ban, some supermarkets tried new tricks to stay open, including renaming themselves book clubs and bus stations.

Several franchises of Intermarché, a group of French supermarkets, invited shoppers to buy, borrow or read a book while shopping. Another store in the same chain took advantage of its location next to a bus stop, but was visited by the police for its setbacks.

The Sunday trading ban was introduced by Poland’s national-conservative government in 2018, following a campaign by the Solidarity trade union and the Catholic Church.

There are, however, a number of exemptions to the rules, and many large chains have taken advantage of one of these by starting to offer postal services. This allowed their outlets to remain open on Sundays.

Under pressure from Solidarity, the government closed this loophole with new legislation that came into effect earlier this month. Shops can now only remain open on Sundays if postal services represent more than 40% of the turnover of a given premises.

Poland closes loophole allowing shops to escape Sunday trading ban by offering postal services

Major chains have pledged to comply with the new rules, but there was speculation about what kind of new tricks they might try to continue to circumvent the rules.

Some branches of Intermarché, which has 230 stores in Poland, were the first to do so. One of its franchises, in the municipality of Cieszyn, took advantage of the fact that it is located next to a bus stop.

The supermarket erected signs outside reading ‘Bus Station’ and describing its entrance hall as a ‘waiting room’. This was to allow him to benefit from the derogation allowing businesses operating in bus and train stations to remain open on Sundays.

However, the idea appears to have backfired yesterday, the first Sunday of its operation, when police were called following a complaint from Solidarity activists protesting at the supermarket.

A police spokesman confirmed that officers had intervened in response to a complaint about the “sale of alcohol at a newly created bus station”. Alcohol cannot be legally sold at bus and train stations.

Alfred Bujara of the local branch of Solidarity called the store’s name change a “huge scandal” and a “fiction”, vowing to fight against this “latest way to force employees to work on Sundays” and calling for this that the store be inspected and fined. .

“To advertise that a store is a station and then sell alcohol there is a travesty and a crime,” Bujara added, as quoted by Wiadomości Handlowe. “This channel shows that it… ignores Polish law. In his own country [France] it respects the law and in Poland it exploits the workers as cheap labour.

Meanwhile, at least five branches of the same chain are trying to circumvent toughened legislation in order to stay open on Sundays. They advertise a book club that’s open seven days a week, offering customers the chance to borrow, buy, or read a book while shopping.

This time, the scheme is based on a derogation in the new law to allow businesses in the fields of culture, sport, education, tourism and recreation to operate on Sundays, reports Gazeta.pl.

“Combine pleasure and usefulness with us! Read a book and do your shopping,” one of the stores promised on social media, promising to be open every Sunday. “We are a readers club where you can read, borrow and buy a book. culture,” read another.

While it’s unclear exactly how club membership would work, one of the participating stores posted photos of a readers’ corner offering a 15% discount on all book sales.

Grupa Muszkieterów – the distribution group to which Intermarché belongs – has not yet published a press release in response to the latest controversies. However, last month its press office said it “does not interfere” in the decisions of its franchisees, who are “independent Polish entrepreneurs”.

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Main image credit: podworka/Twitter