BERN The Federal Council’s proposal to homogenize the opening hours of retail businesses throughout Switzerland will rescind existing cantonal and municipal laws. Given growing cross-border competition, where prices can be 20–30% less, and the strong Swiss Franc, the project seeks to address strident economic realities hindering the country’s retail market. If the plan passes, communes and cantons would no longer be able to decide, or impose, their own opening hours for commercial businesses, such as shops.
In Geneva for instance, the project would enable retailers to stay open an extra hour from Monday to Thursday, an extra hour and a half on Fridays and an additional hour on Saturdays. Offering a total of six and a half more hours per week, the rationale is to benefit both consumers and employees by addressing lifestyle changes, working conditions and shopping trends. It would also stimulate more effective competition. Often hindered by disparate cantonal laws largely because of trade union and church pressure, the traditional retail sector can expect to benefit from this new flexibility. It would also favour the tourist industry as many foreigners come from cultures where shops stay open late.