The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Retail roll in seven-day push

It’s a mega mart out there, with shoppers’ stops keen to cash in, all week long. And the government has decided not to play spoilsport.

Choosing industry over industrial laws, the government has agreed to allow Bata Stores to keep three of its retail outlets in the city open all seven days, thus joining the ranks of Sunday-to-Sunday retail biggies like MusicWorld, Pantaloons and Westside.

Eyeing a window of opportunity — existing laws make it mandatory for store-keepers to give their employees at least one-and-a-half days off every week — Capital Electronics has pushed a similar petition to Writers’.

The consumer-durables chain, with several branches in the city, has asked for permission to keep its units open every day of the week, and initial signals appear to be positive.

“The government is keen to project an industry-friendly and consumer-friendly attitude to encourage the expansion of business in the state,” said a senior labour department official. “We are now offering exemptions from the standard rules after studying the individual petitions. Allowing shops to remain open 365 days a year would send out positive signals.”

He did not forget to add that this would translate into more employment opportunities and higher sales tax revenues for the cash-strapped government.

According to the West Bengal Shops and Establishments Act, 1963, every shop or commercial establishment must remain entirely closed on one day of the week and every person employed in a shop/establishment be given a-day and a half off a week.

Some sectors, including IT, banks (other than the nationalised ones, which do not fall under the purview of the Act), have been exempted over the years.

“If employees get their days off by rotation and they get all their other rights according to the law, why should the government have a problem'” asked another state official.

From Gariahat and Lake Market in the south to New Market in the heart of the city and Hatibagan and Shyambazar up north, every major retail zone follows a Thursday or Monday or Sunday shutdown schedule, with Saturdays often earmarked as half days.

But now, with the city riding a retail crest, shopping off-days are a no-no. “There is a demand among customers to keep our shops open on all days. Moreover, we want to increase our sales,” summed up Prashant Agrawal, chief executive of Capital Electronics.

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