LINZ. Trade is allowed to open up on St. Mary’s Day in order to use the time for higher sales in the Christmas business. But retailers and consumers are not very happy about this. It is difficult for customers to understand who is open and who is not. From a scientific point of view, this is a serious mistake.
Grocery chains will mostly keep their branches closed on December 8th. The official reason: the employees want to be able to take a well-deserved break with their loved ones. Such altruism does not really exist in business life, says Christoph Teller, head of the Institute for Trade, Sales and Marketing at the Johannes Kepler University, who closely monitors trade before Christmas with his colleague Ernst Gittenberger. “In fact, it’s about a clear business decision: is it worth unlocking or not?”
According to a recent study by Teller and Gittenberger, 74 percent of Austrians say it’s a good idea not to open the door on December 8th. Only 15 percent want to go shopping on St. Mary’s Day, the others want to stay at home because they are either generally against open shops on the holiday, see December 8th as a family day or have other leisure activities planned.
However, less frequency does not necessarily mean less sales on St. Mary’s Day, says Teller in an interview with the OÖNachrichten. It also offers the chance to make more sales with good advice. However, it must be clearly communicated who is open and who is not. “Especially in shopping streets and shopping centers it should be either generally open or closed. The shops are communities of destiny and benefit from joint action. Selective closures are counterproductive.”
Closed on land
Most shops in the country are closed. The more urban, the more open, says Manfred Zöchbauer from the trade department of the Chamber of Commerce. Family-run companies would open in cities because they were more flexible with personnel costs.
The 430 member companies of the Linz City Ring have a free choice whether they open tomorrow, Thursday, or not, says managing director Ursula Fürstberger-Matthey: “But almost everyone is open.” Although December 8th is no longer as important as a shopping day as it used to be, it can only be positive for this year’s Christmas business, says Fürstberger-Matthey to the OÖNachrichten. After the first two shopping Saturdays, the retail trade in downtown Linz has “some catching up to do”.
High energy consumption
The 18 branches of the home textile manufacturer Betten Reiter from Leonding are definitely closed. On the one hand they want to give something back to the employees, on the other hand saving energy is the order of the day, says Managing Director Peter Hildebrand. “Closed branches have another positive side effect. We reduce power consumption. I see that as a win-win situation for us.”
In Wels, it is particularly open near the pedestrian zone and shopping centers. “It’s more the branches and only half of the family-run businesses that open up,” says city marketing boss Peter Jungreithmair. He hardly sees the positive effects of December 8 because the costs are very high. The Wels trade had also got off to a good start in the Christmas business. After the 8th of December there is a weekend where shopping is also done. So it could be that sales are just shifting, and the question arises “whether we still need December 8th as a shopping day,” says Jungreithmair.
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