Sensible German Regulations, Part 1

The government of Berlin has become the first German state government to get out of the business of telling retailers when they can and cannot do business. Mostly, anyway. As the German newspaper whose web site could be better organized notes today (on page one, but is it on the front page of the web site? certainly not), Berlin has told shop owners that they may keep any hours they please from Monday to Saturday. Credit where credit is due, this is progress. Not leadership, not parity with numerous other EU nations, but still, progress.

On the other hand, the (Protestant) Bishop of Hanover said that quiet Sundays were good for everyone. Except of course tram drivers, bus drivers, conductors, police, firefighters, hospital staff, etc etc etc. Or maybe the good bishop is on to something, and a state-mandated day of rest really is the way to go. Why not Tuesday?

7 thoughts on “Sensible German Regulations, Part 1

  1. Great news! Spent 2 weeks in Berlin this summer and it was fantastic except for the opening hours.

  2. Well, call me illiberal or whatever you want, but I don’t think this matters all that much. In fact, I think having the law was reduceing transaction costs. Fair enough, a liberalisation reduces the red tape needed to deal with all the shop closing exemptions that are in place right now, but apart from that there won’t be much of a difference. Do shops on Oxford Street have longer opening hours than those in Schwabing? Hardly. But they’re clearly less coordinated. That’s what the problem is – the shop closing law was de facto a shop opening law in most cases – hardly any shop would have opened longer anyway, but there was an official guideline for everyone from trade unions to shop owners and corporate executives. It already became annoying when the 20:00 “curfew” was imposed that – if that – only the bigger shops abided by it. And you never knew which ones. Some already close at 17h now. They could have done that before, too – but they did not. No one did. I’m not sure this is better after all. We had supermarkets in gas stations for late night shopping, but maybe this is an opportunity for small business grocery stores around the corner. Apart from that, I’m really don’t think it will change a lot, apart from increasing the coordination costs of city officials who will have a hard time negotiating with inner city shops to keep open for the same time.

  3. These city officials are also complaining about empty inner cities in the evening. You can’t have it both ways.

    Secondly, retail efficiency is not a problem in Germany. If a way could be found to exchange prices a bit higher due to more people employed in retail for the freedom to shop when we please, the economy would benefit.

  4. Tobias, why do all shops have to keep the same hours? I don’t understand that urge at all.

    For instance, I worked in a bookstore, once upon a time. We had a sales peak right after the evening meal, and then we had another one about 10pm. I’m sure it helped that we had a cafe in the store and were thus something of a destination, but book-buying is a leisure time activity, and longer evening hours, especially in lively neighborhoods, make plenty of sense. I’ll bet that Beate Uhse would benefit from more nighttime hours, too.

    I just don’t see the need for enforced conformity, but maybe I’m missing something.

  5. Well, I’m assuming there will be conformity even in the future, it will just take a while to adjust and I suppose it will be more costly to achieve (albeit it will be ‘systematically correct’). Now, to be sure that a particular shop is open after 17h, I have to consult its web site, or call. That’s annoying. Sex shops are usually open until midnight (might be different in Munich though), and there are exemptions for video stores etc.. All I’m saying is, I can’t see how – apart from the urge to have a law that is ‘systemically correct’ – this is going to make much of a difference to most people – especially those who don’t live in inner city areas where bookstores could try to diversify into the coffee shop business. It will be a similar outcome but more costly to achieve. That’s my criticism.

  6. Why would we want conformity?
    If you want food at rock bottom prices, shop in a 9-18 establishment. If you want to shop at 3am, you pay a little more.

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