Attitudes change towards Easter trading

By Jordan Bond

A sign displays Easter trading hours on a shop window. Photo / Brett Phibbs
A sign displays Easter trading hours on a shop window. Photo / Brett Phibbs

There were a mere handful of complaints made nationwide about stores trading over Easter - and business leaders around the country say a law change is long overdue.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment was notified 15 times about businesses breaking trading laws over Easter weekend - well down on the 42 complaints lodged last year, and the lowest in at least four years. Trading restrictions on Good Friday and Easter Sunday prohibit many shops from opening. Flouting the law can lead to a $1000 fine.

Retail New Zealand spokesperson Greg Harford said the industry strongly supported a law change allowing shops to open.

"The law, frankly, is completely archaic and out of date. It just doesn't make sense in the 21st century," he said. "These days, people shop 24/7 from the comfort of their own homes."

Northland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Tony Collins said the lack of complaints reflected a changed public attitude toward shopping at Easter.

"The majority of people are probably in a position where they're a lot more comfortable buying things on Easter Sunday than they would have been in the past," he said.

Mr Collins said Easter trading laws hurt small businesses outside of the main centres that earn their keep from the busy, tourist season - including the Easter long weekend.

For some New Zealanders however, the weekend is used as a chance to get stuck into a DIY project.

The managing director of Mitre 10 Mega Napier and Hastings has broken trading laws and opened his stores on Easter Sunday for the last 10 years. Graeme Ricketts said he's been fined in the past but the penalty has never been a big consideration.

"The trading we're doing on Easter Sunday indicates there's certainly a demand there," he said. "I would say the public expect stores to be open on Easter Sunday in this day and age," he said.

The Shop Trading Hours Amendment Bill currently before Parliament will grant local councils the power to allow shops to open on Easter Sunday. Good Friday trading laws will not be affected.

Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Darrin Walsh said the bill is a step forward, but said it shouldn't be a local council decision.

"It dodges the bullet in that it's a decision that central government need to make. It should be across the board - a rule that just says 'over Easter, you can open if you wish to open'."

Mr Harford said the bill will create a "patchwork of inconsistent rules" around the country.

"It doesn't make sense. It's going to be confusing and really expensive to administer bylaws," he said.

Mr Harford said people who travelled on Easter weekend might unwittingly get caught in a non-trading area.

However, he said there is widespread support for a change in the law and it's a step in the right direction.

"People still need to shop when they're away, and the whole of New Zealand is a destination. People want to get out and about and shopping is part of that."

The bill - expected to be in place by Easter 2017 - would allow any employee to refuse to work on Easter Sunday "without giving a reason".

- NZ Herald

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