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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 June, 2004, 18:20 GMT 19:20 UK
Germany rejects Sunday shopping
Metro store
The 24/7 shopping culture has not taken root in Germany
Germany's highest court has upheld the country's restrictive retail opening hours, disappointing consumers hoping to shop on Sundays and public holidays.

The Federal Constitutional Court said the principle of rest on Sundays and public holidays was "sacrosanct."

The decision came as a blow to department store Galeria Kaufhof, which had argued for a relaxation of the law.

It said it was losing out unfairly to small shops in stations and airports, which are exempt from the restrictions.

A spokesman for retail giant Metro, Galeria Kaufhof's owner, said the firm regretted the court's decision.

Hubertus Pellengahr of German retail association HDE said the restrictions on opening hours "make us the laughing stock of the whole world."

"We need to give retailers more freedom to react to what consumers want."

Consumer boost

Some economists have said longer opening hours could help stimulate consumer spending, giving Germany's flagging economy a boost.

Growth in Germany, Europe's biggest economy, has slowed to a crawl, while figures out earlier this week showed that unemployment rose for the fourth consecutive month in May.

Germany's federal government last year went some way towards easing the restrictions, extending Saturday trading by four hours in the evening.

The retail lobby is now expected to focus its efforts on Germany's state governments, which have most influence over trading hours regulations.

But resistance to the 24-hour shopping culture remains strong in Germany, with trade unions protesting that the regulations are needed to safeguard workers' rights.

Michael Sommer, head of the DGB union, welcomed the court's decision.

"It's a good day for shopkeepers who would like to have family lives that are just a little bit organised," he said.

Church groups, keen to preserve Sunday as a day of rest, are also opposed to easing trading restrictions.

The Westfalen Protestant church said Wednesday's court decision stood up to "the tendency to increasingly organise our lives according to economic interests".

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