Retail legislation already obsolete
Across much of Canada, Boxing Day is the busiest shopping extravaganza of the year. After a day and a half of visiting friends and family, and dining on turkey, Canadians are ready to bust out. They are looking for those post-holiday bargains and Boxing Day blowout sales, use those gift cards found under the tree or make exchanges on sweaters a size too big or too small. Lineups are common hours before stores open.
Anyone watching Saturday newscasts saw shoppers clogging stores in Ontario and Quebec. Everyone seemed to be doing his or her part to boost the economy as part of an annual postChristmas ritual. Except on P.E.I. Here, retail stores were closed Saturday and had to remain closed until noon Sunday or face a $10,000 fine. Since most businesses closed early Christmas Eve, stores were shut down for the equivalent of three full shopping days at the busiest time of the year for retailers.
Many people visiting P.E.I. for the holidays left for home Saturday or Sunday and never got a chance to drop some money with our retail operators. It was unfortunate timing that Sunday fell the day after Boxing Day this year and only further illustrates the absurdity of P.E.I.’s Retail Business Holidays Act.
Legislation says that on P.E.I., Sunday shopping is permitted after 12 p.m. year round but stores must remain closed on designated retail holidays. P.E.I. stores must advertise Boxing Week sales because Boxing Day sales are a misnomer. Just to get to this epochal point in P.E.I. holiday shopping history took years of debate and a razor-thin vote in the legislature. The law is already obsolete and need changes because it’s already 2016.
It should be up to businesses when they open and let the marketplace decide hours of operation. There are already numerous exceptions to the legislation because gas stations, pharmacies, smaller stores and restaurants can open whenever they want. Large businesses and large employers are being penalized. If the demand is there, stores will open to supply that demand. It shouldn’t be up to government to regulate the marketplace or decide when and how retail operations make money or stay afloat.
There is also the growing threat from online shopping – already making deep inroads in the retail sector. That phenomenon will accelerate because of our antiquated legislation. Restricting our local retailers’ ability to operate threatens jobs and taxes.
It’s time for government to butt out.