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Wednesday, 11 December, 2002, 14:15 GMT
Germany plans longer shopping hours
German shopper
New hours might not come in time for Christmas
The German cabinet has approved new laws allowing retailers to open for an extra four hours on Saturdays, hoping this will boost the economy.

We have the chance to earn a few more euros on Saturdays

Hubertus Pellengahr, The Association of German Retailers
"We hope that the reticence in retail spending in Germany ... will come to an end and that people will generously give presents to their loved ones this Christmas," Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder said after the meeting.

Weak retail demand is blamed as one of the main factors holding back the German economy, which is forecast to grow by just 0.5% this year.

Strict rules regulating the retail sector mean stores can open only from 6am to 4pm on Saturdays.

The new hours will extend the opening time to 8pm but a trading ban on Sundays will remain.

The proposal, which still needs to be passed by parliament, has been welcomed by retailers but has drawn sharp criticism from trade unions.

Preserving family life

Retail groups claimed the move was good for shoppers and would create jobs, but said they would continue to lobby for a further loosening of the hours.

"We have the chance to earn a few more euros on Saturdays and, above all, we can better fulfil the wishes of our customers, who want to shop for longer on Saturdays," Hubertus Pellengahr, a spokesman for the Association of German Retailers, told local television.

Retailer Metro, the world's fifth largest with just over half its sales in Germany, said further liberalisation could take some time.

"We welcome every new liberalisation of opening times and we would be pleased if more restrictions are eased in the future," a Metro spokesman said.

Germany's labour unions, who back Mr Schroeder's Social Democrats, have long opposed the change and fear employers will demand more flexible working hours.

They claim there is plenty of time to shop already and that longer hours will disrupt workers' family lives.

See also:

04 Dec 02 | Business
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