Law revision inconveniencing stores

Some '24-hour' stores are earning too much money

Convenience stores have become victims of their own success. Stores such as 7-Eleven are earning too much profit outside the regular shopping hours designated by the Danish Shop Law. The situation is forcing stores to cut back on their variety or face curtailed opening hours next year.

The law states that stores selling only basic goods such as milk, bread and beverages may stay open as long as they wish, including on Sundays. But these stores are only allowed to earn DKK 27.1 million annually, and many shops are now exceeding that level.

7-Eleven's administrative manager Christian Hoff says that the profit limits are at odds with the growing demand for off-hour shopping.

'In the five years I've been here, profits in after-hours purchases have risen year by year,' Hoff told daily newspaper Politiken.

7-Eleven isn't the only store facing the possibility of earning too much money. Fakta Quick and Irma City have also seen huge profits in evening and Sunday purchases. Kim Lindal, the head of trade organisation Danish Commerce and Services, believes there is an uneven playing field in the convenience store market.

'On the one hand, there are limits for the big 24-hour store concepts. On the other hand, small merchants face even more competition from the big chains after the most recent changes in the Shop Law allowing them to remain open on Sundays,' Lindal said.

Per Ørum, the Conservative party spokesperson for economic issues, explained why the profit limit was maintained.

'Out in the rural areas, small merchants have an advantage by being open on Sundays. If we get rid of the profit limit the big chains step in. That would mean that the wonderful diversity in retail structure would disappear like in Sweden, and that would result in greater distances between the large supermarkets, to the detriment of the consumer.'

Basim Emurlahi, manager of the 7-Eleven on Town Hall Square, has chosen to limit the sales of newspaper and tobacco in order to ensure that his store can keep its promise of 'always open' next year.

'It's the first, but certainly not the last we'll hear of this problem,' he said. 'Politicians have allowed us to stay open longer and liberalised the sale of alcohol. That helps to increase our sales. They've taken the first step, now they have to take the next and raise the sales limit or eliminate it entirely.'

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The Shop Law
* Retailers are allowed to stay open between 6:00 am on Mondays and 5:00 pm on Saturdays. No limits are placed on how long the stores may remain open.

* Grocery stores with an annual turnover under DKK 27.1 million are allowed to open on Sundays. Sunday opening hours are 10:00 am-5:00 pm.

* Stores selling certain goods, such as bread, milk, newspapers, fuel, and flowers are permitted to remain open on Sunday regardless of their annual turnover.

* All retailers are allowed six 'floating' Sundays a year, where they can choose to stay open. Two of those Sundays must be in July or August.

* In addition, stores are allowed to open the first Sunday of the month and all Sundays in December.

* The original ban on Sunday trade stems from a royal decree in 1845 and was last revised in 2005.

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