After years of escalating conflict at the Paddepoel shopping centre in Groningen, the shop owners association has voted on a new policy which no longer requires businesses to be open during monthly shopping Sundays.
Translation by Traci White
RTV Noord reports that the new agreement also means that fines that had been levied against shop owners who refused to open have been thrown out. Shop owners can choose whether or not to open during the monthly Sunday shopping days, and hours on Thursday nights will be changed from closing at 9 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The Paddepoel shopping centre in the north of Groningen in particular has been a focal point of the debate. Several businesses were fined tens of thousands of euros of the course of the past few years because they refused to observe the mandatory opening hours on Sundays. While some businesses benefited from sales made during extra opening hours, smaller businesses in the shopping centre reportedly struggled with staffing their stores seven days a week, and many storefronts chafed at being forced to remain open.
Decide for themselves
All of the local parties in the municipality of Groningen running for election are in favour of letting shops decide for themselves whether to be open on shopping Sundays or not. The current municipal council wanted to hold off on plans to expand the shopping centre until the Sunday hours conflict was sorted out, which is now the case.
In 1996, Dutch national law stated that Dutch shops could not be open on Sundays, certain religious holidays, before 6 a.m. or after 10 p.m., but specified that local municipalities can make their own exemptions. Many areas have one Sunday a month where shops are open, but more and more municipalities across the country are embracing opening hours for shops on Sundays every week, especially areas with higher levels of tourism.
Back in June, the Frisian city of Drachten became the first in the Netherlands to pass a motion permitting shops to be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.