Move to relax store opening time restrictions
A move to axe restrictions on shop opening hours has been welcomed by the retail industry.
“We are very pleased Government has taken action on that,” said Bermuda Chamber of Commerce executive director Joanne MacPhee.
She was speaking after Governor George Fergusson outlined Government’s plans for the new legislative year in the Throne Speech on Friday.
Mr Fergusson said: “To provide further economic stimulus to the Island’s retail sector, the Ministry has been working with the Chamber of Commerce and the Registrar of Companies to introduce legislative amendments to the Public Holidays Act 1947 to increase the flexibility afforded to businesses with regard to their opening times.”
Ms MacPhee added: “We have been lobbying Government for some time for changes to the 1947 Public Holidays Act, which currently states every Sunday is a public holiday and restricts the opening hours of retailers with more than 2500 square feet of floor space on Sundays. We appealed for Sundays no longer to be deemed a public holiday and an end to the restrictions on size so any retailer can open as demand dictates.”
Larger stores at present can only open between 1pm and 6pm on Sundays,
Ms MacPhee added: “I don’t think there will be a huge immediate change in retail hours, but it certainly allows those retailers who want to be cutting edge and innovative to service their customers.”
Ms MacPhee said recent waivers of the public holiday rule had allowed St George’s stores to open on Good Friday last year in anticipation of a cruise ship call which was, however, cancelled due to bad weather.
Stores have also been allowed to open earlier and close later on Christmas Eve when it fell on a Sunday, while retailers in Hamilton were allowed to open on a Sunday in March due to a cruise ship caller.
Ms MacPhee said: “These are occasions where it’s expedient for tourists. [Retailers] should not have to go to Government every time they want to open their doors and respond to demand from customers.
“It’s a sign of the times and we were surprised, as I think was Government, that the church lobby was not as strident as expected and many of the more traditional churches didn’t take a position.
“In international business and the financial services industry we have already had a light and effective regulatory environment for many years.
“Now we are looking inward on that and looking for the same light but appropriate legislation for Bermuda businesses.”
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