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Business

Retailers: Longer Shop Hours Might Not Help Economy

The German Retailers Association HDE, which represents 100,000 retailers, has said plans by Economics Minster Wolfgang Clement to allow stores to stay open 24 hours from Monday to Saturday may fail to boost consumer spending and employment. The shop hours proposal is part of a 34-point government strategy to cut red tape and encourage economic growth and job creation. But the HDE said experience had shown that long shop hours do not automatically bring about an increase in business. It said sales had not risen markedly since stores were allowed to stay open longer on Saturdays almost a year ago. "People won't buy new television sets even if stores give them more time to do so," Holger Wenzel, managing director of the HDE, said in an interview. He expects retail sales to stagnate in 2004 after three years of decline. Germany's Verdi labor union, which represents 2.8 million retail workers, has come out against the plan and said last year's shopping hours extension actually cut jobs by squeezing profits at smaller shops. Clement is also proposing allowing Germany's 16 federal states to determine whether and how long shops can stay open Sundays. A 54-year-old law currently on the books allows only a few stores, such as gas stations and shops in train stations, to operate on Sunday.