Poland to Review Ban on Sunday Shopping as Elections Draw Near

(Bloomberg) -- The Polish government said it’s reviewing the impact of its increasingly strict Sunday shopping ban, fueling speculation that it may relax the rules in this election year.

Jeronimo Martins SPGS SA, owner of Poland’s biggest food chain Biedronka, rose 4.6 percent in Lisbon after Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Tuesday that the government started analyzing the effects of the law. Cash-and-carry store operator Eurocash surged as much as 1.7 percent after the comments, closing 0.4 percent weaker.

Introduced last March with backing from the powerful Solidarity labor union, which threw its weight behind the government in the previous election campaign four years ago, the law change generally hurt retailers and shopping-center owners while boosting some e-commerce stores. Tesco PLC said in August it was forced to reduce the scale of its Polish operations as the ban reduced profitability.

“We have been reviewing the effects of that law on smaller and bigger shops, on family-owned ones, but first of all on the people, on their preferences and needs,” Morawiecki told reporters Tuesday. “We’re a government that listens to the people.”

Initially, the ban targeted two Sundays a month, and this year was expanded to three Sundays -- a day when Poles should go to church instead of shopping, according to the conservative government. As it stands, the law will encompass nearly all Sundays from 2020.

Unpopular Ban

A survey from last month showed that 46 percent of Poles want to lift the ban, up from 37 percent last year, according to a poll conducted by Havas Media Group among 1,077 adults. Hungary, which introduced similar restrictions in 2015, reinstated Sunday shopping a year later after the ban proved unpopular.

Jeronimo Martins, which gains 67 percent of its revenue from its 2,900 Biedronka stores, estimated that the ban reduced like-for-like sales by 1.3 percentage points last year.

“Any softening of the Sunday trade ban should be positive for Polish retailers, especially for fashion retailers,” Piotr Bogusz, an analyst at MBank SA’s brokerage unit, said by email. “It may be also important for the biggest food chains, such as Biedronka.”

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