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Domino effect feared: retailers split on Sunday shopping.

Domino effect feared

A piece of the retailing pie.

Whenever retail industry officials debate the merits of Sunday shopping the metaphor is heard.

Pro-Sunday shopping factions want a bigger chunk of the retailing dollar, while anti-Sunday shopping forces say there is a finite amount of consumer money available and being open an extra day does not mean more money for the retail sector.

"The pie is only so big," said Larry Warren, general manager of the Canadian Tire store in North Bay.

Citing an increase in operating costs, Warren added, "The existing retail marketplace is growing (through the addition of larger stores) and small businesses are being forced out."

Warren's Canadian Tire store has been open on Sundays since July 8, three days after the Ontario Court of Appeal refused to grant the provincial government a stay following the quashing of the Retail Business Holidays Act by the Ontario Supreme Court on June 23. Attorney General Ian Scott has said the province will appeal the decision on Sept. 24.

Under the act, stores meeting certain size and type of operation criteria were permitted to open on Sundays.

While opposed to doing business on Sundays, Warren said he has been caught in a domino effect, as other large retail operations, such as Zeller's and K-Mart, open up in the city.

"We can't afford to stay closed," he said.

Like Warren, Hector Vaillant, manager of Eaton's in Sudbury, opposes Sunday openings and, at press time his store was one of the few in the chain which had not opened on Sundays.

"It's just going to stretch the dollars available," Vaillant said. "Customers are going to get less service, but the costs will be higher."

Vaillant said the store remained closed because of a corporate decision to recognize regional attitudes. Meanwhile, Eaton's stores in southern Ontario were quick to take advantage of the court decision.

However, he added his store could open if other retailers begin to conduct business on Sundays.

"If we begin to lose our market share, then we'll open on Sundays," he said.

Maintaining market share could prove to be harder for a number of smaller retailers as they are forced to open Sundays despite declining consumer confidence.

"There's no room to manoeuvre," said Warren. "Sales have not been great and we can't afford any more erosion of our market."

"Things are soft right now and businesses will have a tough time," Vaillant said, adding that retailers are in a Catch-22 position because opening an extra day increases costs and staying closed could result in a lost share of the consumer market.

Doug Bishop, owner of the Canadian Tire store in Kenora, said his weekly sales figures have increased due to Sunday shopping and that the increase has been generated by customers from outside of Ontario.

"We've transfered some of the sales from Winnipeg and from Minnesota," he said.


A chief argument by Sunday shopping advocates has been job creation. However, it is a point which is as hotly contested as any other in the debate.

"There is a misconception that this is going to create jobs," Vaillant said. "I can guarantee that it won't."

However, Bishop said opening Sundays has meant an increase in the number of workers at his establishment.

"The number of employees goes from 26 or 27 in the winter to about 90 in the summer. Right now we have 112," he said.

Kenora has had Sunday shopping since May when the town council passed a bylaw approving of the openings.

Labor groups have complained that there is a potential for retailers to intimidate employees into working Sundays. However, a spokesman for the solicitor general's office said that a companion piece of legislation which protects workers' rights is still in force even though the Retail Business Holidays Act was thrown out.

During its first Sunday opening, the North Bay Canadian Tire store operated with seven staff members and two managers. According to Warren, the store's staff is divided when it comes to working on Sundays.

"I'd say that they fall into one of three categories," he said. "Twenty per cent couldn't care less (about working on Sundays), it's just another day for them; 60 per cent don't like the idea, but recognize that the store has to be open and another 20 per cent would quit before they'd work on a Sunday."


Advocates of Sunday shopping say it's important in areas which rely on the tourist trade.

"We need Sunday shopping because of the tourist trade," said Bishop. "Over half of this town's prosperity comes from tourism."

Bishop, who is one of the town's chief advocates of Sunday shopping, noted that Kenora's consumer market swells in the summer months to between 80,000 and 90,000 people. According to Bishop, a tourist spends $25 on average when passing through the town.

"It's a totally different situation here," said Bishop. "We need the tourist trade to survive."
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Author:Krejlgaard, Chris
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Aug 1, 1990
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