Shopping or family time? Debating whether stores should close on Boxing Day
This story was originally published on Dec. 26, 2018
TORONTO -- A massive retailer in the U.K. is forgoing the chaos of Boxing Day shopping in favour of more family time among its employees, but one expert says Canadians shouldn’t expect the same thing to happen here any time soon.
Home Bargains, a retailer with more than 500 stores across the U.K., announced in mid-November they would close for Boxing Day to “give our hard-working staff some extra time off.”
Karl Littler, senior vice-president of public affairs at the Retail Council of Canada, says Canadian stores don’t plan on closing for the holiday any time soon, in part because it remains such an important day on the retail calendar.
“I don’t think there would be a big rush to close,” he said in a recent phone interview with CTVNews.ca. “You’ve got a lot of people still looking to Boxing Day as a pretty major shopping day.”
Tim Deelstra, spokesperson for United Food and Commercial Workers Canada Locals 175 and 633, said workers would welcome the time off on Boxing Day if their employer decided to close for the day.
“Most of the retail employers that we work with tend to open on Boxing Day and so we have processes in place to make sure that people who don’t want to work have those options available to them,” he said.
The UFCW represents workers at several grocery store chains across Canada, along with The Beer Store in Ontario, Rona and LensCrafters.
“What we’ve being doing as a union is trying to ensure that in our retail agreements that we have the ability for people to get the day off if they wish…and that those that want to work are paid a significant premium,” he said.
Growing online sales would allow workers to stay home for the holiday, but Littler says those still represent a small number of the overall market.
A November report from the Retail Council of Canada indicates while Black Friday has eclipsed Boxing Day as the biggest sales day in Canada, 35 per cent of people still plan to go bargain hunting the day after Christmas, with 38 per cent of those people choosing to shop online.
Littler said the Retail Council of Canada will be watching the U.K. over the coming years to see where Boxing Day closures go from here and how it impacts retailers.
In-store Boxing Day shopping has been a topic of discussion for several years in the U.K. In 2016, a petition calling for stores to shut down for the day received more than 200,000 signatures. The U.K. government later said it would not intervene in how businesses choose to operate.
This year, a similar petition has gathered more than 48,000 signatures as of Dec. 25.
In large parts of Atlantic Canada, retailers are not allowed to open on Boxing Day, leaving the big sales day to Dec. 27. Some stores choose to defy the rules and open anyway, however.
The city of Sudbury, Ont. had a similar ban on Boxing Day shopping until it was repealed in 2014.
In some provinces, workers have the right to take a national holiday off. There are exceptions to the rule, however, including nurses and other hospital employees.
While having the day off would allow for more family time, Littler points out for a lot of people, working on Boxing Day means a welcome bonus to their paycheque at a time when they might need it.
“There’s no shortage of workers to work on Boxing Day, I can assure you,” he said.