Calls for Easter shop laws overhaul

LAURA WALTERS
Last updated 05:00 13/04/2014

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Overly restrictive Easter trading laws have driven shoppers online at the expense of stores and Parliament should change the "outdated" law after the election, retailers say.

Retail Association chief executive Mark Johnston said consumers were increasingly shopping online on Good Friday and Easter Sunday when most shops were forced to shut.

According to electronic transactions operator Paymark, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Anzac Day are three of the four slowest shopping days of the year.

But online spending, both domestically and overseas, rose 17.7 per cent for the two restricted trading days in 2013 compared to the previous year, according to BNZ researcher Marketview, although the amount spent was still less than a regular Friday and Sunday.

The law was outdated, Johnston said, and the association would be asking for the legislation to be amended after this year's election to keep up with the changing retail landscape. The law did not take into account that people were buying goods from New Zealand stores at Easter anyway.

Unions are opposed to change. First Union retail secretary Maxine Gay said our shopping laws were already among the most deregulated in the world. "Easter is one of the few guaranteed times that retail workers can have off."

Retail staff worked long hours for low pay already and had "precious little" time with their families, she said.

The Holidays Act requires employers to pay staff time-and-a-half on Good Friday, but nothing extra on Easter Sunday, which is not a public holiday.

While Census figures show fewer people now identify as Christian, Auckland Cathedral of the Holy Trinity Dean Jo Kelly-Moore said in a "24-7 world" people were exhausted and a day off was no bad thing no matter what the reason.

Victoria University professor Paul Morris, who specialises in religious studies, said whether New Zealanders identified as Christian was not the point as Easter and Christmas were now secular holidays, written into the calendar and observed "in some fashion" by everyone.

Most shops must close at Easter, except for dairies and service stations which can sell essential items. Pharmacies are able to trade as normal and shops in tourist destinations Taupo and Queenstown are also exempted.

Since 2000 garden centres have been allowed to open on Easter Sunday but Oderings director Darryn Odering was sticking to his principles and all 10 stores around the country would open on Friday, as they had done since 1972. "Nobody can tell us why it was right then and it's wrong now."

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Last year the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment won two cases against businesses for Easter weekend breaches, a big drop from 30 in 2012. It said the number of complaints remained "reasonably consistent" each year.

- Sunday Star Times

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