Sunday Shopping in Nova Scotia
June 24, 2006 7:21 AM   Subscribe

Sunday Shopping in Nova Scotia. You might not think there's anywhere left in Western Civilization where this is still an issue. But in the little Canadian province of Nova Scotia, it's causing a storm, with big stores working around the law to stay open, and the government legislating in haste to try to keep them closed. But not all of them - and that's leading to accusations of unfairness and even cronyism too.
posted by thparkth (36 comments total)
There was a referendum in 2004 on whether Sunday shopping should be allowed or not. The "No" side won with 55% on a low turnout. But the province was divided between town and country; those in metro Halifax voted strongly in favour of Sunday shopping, and that's where the big stores have been opening on Sundays over the last few weeks.

Pete's Frootique has been opening on Sundays for many years by splitting itself into multiple businesses, each smaller than the 4000 sq ft limit which the law imposes. Each mini-store is exempt from the Sunday shopping legislation. This is exactly what the big stores Sobeys and Atlantic Superstore have done now.
posted by thparkth at 7:29 AM on June 24, 2006

Speaking of Canadian cronyism, there was a sign on the highway north on Montreal, not a billboard, but a regular highway department exit ramp kind of sign, announcing a pottery store. Just for fun I followed the signs, and they led me to a warehouse with a bunch of cups and plates on card tables.

They can't figure out how to do proper gerrymandering and steal elections, but they do this kind of stuff. I found it, I don't know, sort of cute.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:34 AM on June 24, 2006

Nice to see MacDonald preserving the quaint factor. I wonder if his namesake (sorta) intends on following suit.
posted by papoon at 7:36 AM on June 24, 2006

That FPP "cronyism" link:

STELLARTON, NS, June 23 /CNW/ - The following statement was issued today by Bill McEwan, President & CEO of Sobeys Inc., regarding today's announcement by the Premier of Nova Scotia on Sunday shopping: [blah blah blah]

About Sobeys Inc.
Sobeys Inc., (TSX: SBY) headquartered in Stellarton, Nova Scotia, is a leading national grocery retailer and food distributor. The Company owns or franchises approximately 1,300 stores in all 10 provinces under retail banners that include Sobeys, IGA extra, IGA and Price Chopper. Sobeys Inc. is committed to providing the most worthwhile experience for its customers, employees, franchisees, suppliers and shareholders.

Yeah, Bill, but the small businesses don't get a full-scale press release package anytime the owner is a bit peeved.
posted by rolypolyman at 8:58 AM on June 24, 2006

You might not think there's anywhere left in Western Civilization where this is still an issue.

There are several countries in Europe where the only places you can shop at on sundays are gas stations and train stations / airports, e.g. in Germany.
posted by Herr Fahrstuhl at 9:15 AM on June 24, 2006

What, you never been to Alabama on a Sunday and tried to buy a beer?
posted by smallerdemon at 9:16 AM on June 24, 2006

Sunday shopping laws are such fucking BS. When I lived in ON, everyone complained about them except for the bible thumpers. Until good ole Bobby Rae's gov. ( Bobby Cohen) wised up and realized they could collect more tax revenue and make most shoppers happy.
posted by GoodJob! at 9:56 AM on June 24, 2006

It's an long lost cause but the best argument against Sunday shopping is to allow the rank and file working in retail some weekend time off like the rest of us. You know, day of rest and all that.

If you've ever worked retail you know the hours are as bad as can be. Folks typically work at exactly the times their friends and families are off: evenings, weekends, holidays, and sometimes doing split shifts to cover the busy periods; all to serve those of us better off. Nasty really.
posted by scheptech at 11:00 AM on June 24, 2006

I remember when they started opening on Sundays in Sask. I work in a professional office enviornment, and I haven't stepped into a church since Britney Spears was a sweet teenage piece of ass.

I was young when stores started opening on Sunday but my family was against it because my dad worked in retail. Sunday closure meant my dad had a day off when us kids were not in school. Sunday openings are one of the reasons that in the 80's I became a latchkey kid.

You may notice, that grocery store work used to pay quite a bit better... most of the people who worked their could support families on the incomes - it would be pretty tough to do that now. Sunday opening was a contributor to declining standards. The fact that people always fuck over their neighbours for the sake of a few minutes of convenience makes us look like sociopaths.

I think it is a grim statement that we need to be able to wander (okay drive) down the street at any time of day to be able to buy groceries - are we incapable as a society of having that level of organization? Is our ability to throw food down our bloated snackholes that important??

Yeah I shop on Sunday, but it wouldn't hurt me to do it during normal business hours and I could see all kinds of societal benefits. Money always trumps political power, and it will in Nova Scotia, but I am glad they are fighting a good fight.
posted by Deep Dish at 11:12 AM on June 24, 2006

I don't believe it's a matter of convenience. It's a matter of choice and the flip side of the coin is that some people who are workaholics ( some not out of choice) during the weekdays need Sundays to shop, as it's their only available day to keep their households running effectively.
posted by GoodJob! at 11:30 AM on June 24, 2006

I'm of two minds about Sunday shopping. On the one hand, it isn't my holy day, and I resent being forced to observe it. On the other, I'm one of those low wage workers who ends up working Sundays for peanuts (as I do now, and started doing when Mass. got rid of its blue laws). Add that, because of the silly holy day thing, Sunday workers usually don't get to put in a full shift, so we're going in (same transport costs as other days) for less pay, and I start foaming at the mouth.

Stronger worker protection...yeah, that is really the issue. Let's address that one, then we can worry about whether yuppie scum can buy Oreo cookies at a discount on Sundays.
posted by QIbHom at 12:01 PM on June 24, 2006

I'm with scheptech and Deep Dish on this one. Its pretty shallow to look down from your high horse at the issue being one of personal convenience.

My parents made me work in grocery before releasing me to the freedom of college, and I worked in retail/merchandising management for 5 years after that. There were weeks pre-college where I worked 14 days straight. I didn't have a choice - I would have lost my job had I not shown up.

In the 6 years since college, I haven't worked a single Sunday - but I have driven by a Target across the river from Manhattan and had that initial reaction of annoyance that the parking lot was empty at 1pm. Until I remembered that I once was on the shorter end of the stick too.

I think its sad that there aren't more places in Western Civilization that this is not an issue.
posted by allkindsoftime at 12:02 PM on June 24, 2006

The idea that people can get their grocery shopping done 'during normal business hours' is predicated on them not also working during normal business hours. It's an outmoded concept that only works if the little wife stays home to keep house, and maybe skip off to the Piggy Wiggly on Thursday before her appointment at the beauty salon.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:06 PM on June 24, 2006

Jacquilynne is completely right. I just recently started a "real job", i.e., around 9 to around 5 every weekday, and considering the huge numbers of people who do the same thing it's become ridiculous to me that so many things are open only at the same times. Getting to a bank branch last week was ridiculous.

But, you know, I can see it seeming pointless when you're out in rural eastern Canada. I used to live there myself, and it's an entirely different way of life. I'm wondering when the urban-rural divide is going to culminate in entirely different legal districts or something. The lifestyle differences are piling up daily.
posted by blacklite at 12:19 PM on June 24, 2006

Bergen County, NJ (where the mall-laden town named Paramus is located) still has no retail shopping on Sundays.
posted by wfc123 at 1:03 PM on June 24, 2006

i'm old enough to remember when sunday closings and everything being shut up at night was the rule, perhaps not of law, but of social custom ... on the one hand, it was less convenient ... but on the other hand, it seemed to me that society was a lot calmer, especially at night ... no one went out because there was nowhere to go

but there are probably other reasons for that change

economic efficiency, of course, rules everything ... give us convenience or give us death!

it has nothing to do with religion ... we might be a better society if there was one day a week we didn't have to do anything, if we could take time off from the perpetual clamor of the market ... but we'll never know now, will we?
posted by pyramid termite at 1:11 PM on June 24, 2006

No car sales on Sunday in Indiana. No liquor stores open, either.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:30 PM on June 24, 2006

Long opening hours also make it much harder to run a small business. Even if you can compete on stock/price/service with walmart, how can you possibly compete with a 24hr day?
posted by Chuckles at 2:41 PM on June 24, 2006

The idea that people can get their grocery shopping done 'during normal business hours' is predicated on them not also working during normal business hours.

I am a bachelor, what is wrong with Saturday?
posted by Deep Dish at 3:00 PM on June 24, 2006

In MAssachusetts the Blue Laws were amended to allow Sunday shopping as long as the employees had the option not to work, and those that do get paid time and a half.
posted by Gungho at 3:45 PM on June 24, 2006

So, wait, because retail workers deserve time off with their families on a weekend, and because the job is really hard, that means that the government should legislate a day where stores shouldn't be open? Is this really a question of workers' rights? And if retail workers' rights are the issue, then aren't there a whole passle of things to change before worrying about legislating a day off?

I'm no libertarian, but who's to tell me that I can't keep my business open? If the customers are there, then I'm gonna sell to them. And Chuckles, small businesses don't stay open 24 hours because it's not cost-effective.
posted by incessant at 3:50 PM on June 24, 2006

Ya.. Then why is it cost-effective for walmart?

My answer: it probably isn't. It is probably a marketing move, "we are always open, and we have everything". In addition, it helps to starve out the competition. You might have gone to the local hardware store next morning for that box of screws, but since walmart is open...

Of course the disparity has always existed, to some extent. Larger businesses, which already have infrastructure for managing employees, can open longer hours economically. It is now being taken to an extreme..

Can family and sole proprietorship retail businesses survive? Probably not.. Except in very tight niche markets, obviously.

Can a healthy market continue to exist in that environment? Probably not..
posted by Chuckles at 4:23 PM on June 24, 2006

I'm no libertarian, but who's to tell me that I can't keep my business open?

Because I believe we have the right to use the legal system to prevent people from harming society
posted by Deep Dish at 4:47 PM on June 24, 2006

On Prince Edward Island we also have Sunday shopping laws, which has led to drug stores which sell digital cameras, because they are except from the law.

The ways some businesses can get around the laws are quite stupid, and retail workers still get shitty working conditions and bad shifts, but I still don't mind it. Perhaps I'm catching a case of the "that's just how things have always been done" disease, but I'd like to try and fight the erosion of workers' rights on every front I can.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:04 PM on June 24, 2006

How about this: one day a week you can't run out to the store. You have to think about it: oh! no, this is Sunday, I can't get that part, that video. Your life achieves a texture, a rhythm, one sorely lacking in this day of "gimme everything I want, whenever I want it, all the time, and that's the best!"

Just maybe, as anti-free enterprise as such an idea admittedly is, it might re-introduce some sort of balance in our lives without entailing, really, very much inconvenience.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 6:25 PM on June 24, 2006

"'Sunday is a day when we stop, when our society stops,' said Britton. 'If we keep working seven days a week we're all going to pay for it.'"

Are you sure this is happening in Canada? This sounds suspiciously like Utah to me.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:27 PM on June 24, 2006

mr_crash_davis: as per my previous comment, I don't think it's adherence to religious orthodoxy that's driving the opposition to Sunday shopping among rural Maritimers.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 6:31 PM on June 24, 2006

Here's another example from a somewhat different slant. When I lived in California I could go to the local Ralphs, two blocks away, to buy booze, seven days a week. Here in Vancouver I have to go to the liquor store, my local one being closed on Sundays. I sometimes have the inclination to buy a bottle of wine on a Sunday, having failed to plan ahead, which entails a bit more of a drive to a bigger store somewhere else in town.

Is my life worse now? No. This is one proof among many to me that more convenience does not equal more happiness. I berate myself for failing to plan ahead; drive to the somewhat more distant liquor store, and end up with what I wanted for a bit more trouble. Much less trouble than our pioneer ancestors went through for even more urgently needed foodstuffs; I doubt many of them were in analysis and looking for meaning in their lives.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 6:38 PM on June 24, 2006

Bergen County, NJ (where the mall-laden town named Paramus is located) still has no retail shopping on Sundays.

And that's just the way we like it. We've got 4 major malls within 10 minutes of each other. It's nice to have one day without the traffic, especially around Christmas.
posted by exhilaration at 6:55 PM on June 24, 2006

Blue laws exist, anywhere they exist (which includes many US states, Germany*, etc.) not because of religious reasons, but to protect local retailers from regional/national/mulitnational retailers. They do have their genesis religious and other old cultural traditions; but the modern forces that keep them in place are those trying to protect small business owners. That being the case, the "correct" lefty position is to support them.

* In Germany and other places, these laws are not so much about Sunday versus other days of the week, but preventing retail hours from extending past regular business hours. Shops close at 5 or thereabouts.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:11 PM on June 24, 2006

The transision period is painful but the I hope to see 24X363 shopping along with extended goverment service times and things like year round two shift schooling. It makes the best use of infrastructure if we don't allow streets, stores, and buildings to sit deserted 1/7 of the week and 50-66% of the open days.

Once we get to the point where equal numbers of people are working at all times of the day what difference does it make which 8 hours of the day/5 days of the week you work? For example if your shift is thursday to monday 5-11 and that syncs to your kids school time you actually get more day time hours for family. And instead of everyone wanting to use the beach on sunday afternoons you spread that use out over the whole week.
posted by Mitheral at 8:57 PM on June 24, 2006

allkindsoftime writes "Its pretty shallow to look down from your high horse at the issue being one of personal convenience. "

But isn't that the basis of both the "for" and "against" arguments in this case?
posted by clevershark at 9:35 PM on June 24, 2006

I'm from Nova Scotia, despite not being there right at this moment. It is most definitely not anything at all to do with religion. I would say that the entire province is one of the least religious-conservative areas of the country. However, it is definitely about tradition. And the tradition of having Sunday as a day of rest, while technically rooted in religion, is more about people having free time now.
It's important to know that Nova Scotia is one of, if not the, poorest provinces in Canada. Unemployment is ridiculously high, and the vast majority of people are employed at part-time shift work. The exact people who will get shafted by working for less on Sunday, and have no other choice because they don't dare lose their job.
posted by nightchrome at 11:02 PM on June 24, 2006

I work retail in Nova Scotia, and while I like that I am always guaranteed a specific day off (I'll take as much consistency in my life as I can get, thank you. Retail is chaos.), I hate that I am essentially made impotent on that same day. I am forced to take a day of rest. Sometimes my weeks are so hectic (Working, traveling to and from work, preparing meals, exercising, and sleeping are my daily priorities, and they are time-consuming. And it's just me! I can't even imagine how stressed I'd be if I had a family. Or even a social life.) that Sunday is the only day I could get anything done. But I can't.

It's great that I can pop over to Pete's if I need some fruits and veggies, but I'm not willing to pay a crazy premium for any other sorts of groceries I might need; I work in retail, I can't afford it!

My definite day off is not worth it. If I could forgo sleep, believe me, I would. Instead, I'll give up my day off so I, and all the busier, more socially active families and people, can get some groceries without having to sacrifice any other priorities.
posted by digifox at 6:25 AM on June 25, 2006

Before the referendum a few years back, I got into a discussion with one of the more public anti-Sunday shopping advocates. He vehemently denied there was any religious factor to his position at all. It all came down to giving (retail*) people a guaranteed single day off per week. When I suggested that people be allowed to choose, say, Wednesday to be that day, he broke off the discussion by saying it could only be Sunday.

(* and that's the weird thing about this. Think about how many people work Sundays without protection - essential workers like police, fire, medical, office workers like reporters, retail/service workers at movie theatres, bars, restaurants, real estate agents, and oh yes, grocery store workers. Because they are there, stocking shelves, cleaning, ordering... in fact, doing everything they normally do through the week except selling to customers.)
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:20 AM on June 26, 2006

My Sunday Shopping Challenge.
posted by boost ventilator at 12:22 PM on June 30, 2006

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