Large stores to close Sept. 28

Some retailers are defying the ban based on their interpretation of the law

Large stores will be closed on Sept. 28, which is a national holiday for St Wenceslas, also called Czech Statehood Day. The ban on stores being open took effect last year so shop workers could have a day off, like most other people. But some stores are choosing to defy the ban based on its vague wording.

The law applies to stores larger than 200 square meters. Pharmacies, gas stations and shops in hospitals, airports, and bus and train stations are exempt. Pawnshops and used goods stores are included, regardless of size. The law prohibits sales, but does not require the store to be closed, according to some legal experts.

The ban also covers Oct. 28, Dec. 25 and 26, Jan. 1, Easter Monday and May 8. On Dec. 24, shops have to close after noon. Not included in the ban are Good Friday, May 1, July 5, July 6 or Nov. 17.

The only large supermarkets in Prague that will be legally open are Billa stores at Václav Havel Airport Prague and at the train station Praha hlavní nádraží.

The electronics e-shop Alza will be open, even though some of their brick-and-mortar shops are larger than 200 sqm. Alza spokeswoman Patricie Šedivá told news server the shop would not be violating the law as they won't be conducting classical sales, according to legal opinions.

Alza shops would be open for delivering goods, resolving complaints and other purposes.

“If the doors do not open, customers will not be able to return products within a 14-day deadline for returns, make claims, or hand over electrical equipment for recycling,” she told the server.

The Czech Trade Inspection (ČOI) disagrees and says that Alza is conducting sales. The ČOI says Alza violated the ban last Oct. 28 and Dec. 26. A fine in an undisclosed amount has not yet come into force because the Alza has appealed. The ČOI can impose fines of up to Kč 1 million, and up to Kč 5 million for repeat offenses.

Last Oct. 28 was the first holiday when the sales ban took effect. Since then, the ČOI has carried out 1,364 inspections and found 18 violations. The most were found on Oct. 28, 2016, when many people were not aware of the law. Some 12 violations were found then. Just one was found on Christmas, none on New Year's Day, three on Easter Monday and two on May 8, 2017.

So far, eight sanctions have become effective. The highest fine has been Kč 20,000 for the company Ronja, which operated the “3 Kronen Markt” in Chvalovice -Hatě, South Moravia, on Oct. 28, 2016. The store at an outlet center at the Czech–Austrian border is larger than 200 sqm.

Two separate entrepreneurs from České Velenice and Vyšší Brod were fined Kč 15,000 each for operating a sales area larger than 200 sqm. Two business and second-hand store operator were fined Kč 10,000 each. A garden supply center larger than 200 sqm was fined Kč 5,000. There was no information on the eighth case.

Before the ban took effect, the Czech Confederation of Commerce and Tourism (SOCR) warned that the ban would cost thousands of people to lose jobs, but that has not been the case. Most chains have reported a number of job openings instead. The SOCR says that customer demand should dictate store hours, and not the government.

Whether or not the ban has cost retailers money is hard to determine as sales in general are up due to the economic recovery, and it is not possible to isolate the effect of any one factor.

Both shoppers and retailers find the selection of what holidays are included to be arbitrary and confusing. Some retailers say that informing the public has been difficult.

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