E-commerce in Poland: A true winner of the Sunday trading ban?

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Almost exactly 12 months ago, I was writing a series of articles for this publication about e-commerce and legislative changes in Poland. At that time, retailers were nervously awaiting the announcement of the dreaded Sunday trading restrictions and customers, including myself, were wondering how they would be affected.

The new law finally came into force on March 1, 2018, and as a result, stores must now close on Sundays apart from the first and last Sunday of each month (a few businesses, such as gas stations, pharmacies and shops run directly by their owners, are excepted). As of January 1, 2019, the rules tighten even more, and stores may open one Sunday per month; in 2020, Sunday trading will be banned completely, with only seven Sundays per year (around key holidays) being unaffected.

Although it may be too early to reach any definitive conclusions about the impact of the ban, a couple of trends have already been detected.

Evolving customer behavior

First, customers are pragmatic. If they remember that the shops will be closed on the coming Sunday, they adjust plans accordingly, with Saturday (mainly in big cities) becoming the main day for shopping activity; just try to find an empty parking space in a shopping center on a Saturday. By virtue of modified consumer behavior, shopping centers have compensated for the losses in revenue caused by the new legislation to some extent.

Nevertheless, as some recent reports show, they have still suffered a single-digit decline in the number of visitors compared to this time last year.

E-Commerce on the rise

The Sunday trading ban has further stimulated the growth of e-commerce in Poland, but it has not revolutionized it as some were predicting. Retailers, especially those from the fashion sector, have come to realize that online sales can be the perfect solution to the Sunday trading ban, since online shopping is not restricted. Retailers have adopted new marketing strategies and created special advertising campaigns and promotional offers directed to online shoppers. For example, customers are often offered free delivery or price reductions when shopping online on Sundays. These mechanisms are helping retailers to attract more customers.

Whats next?

A year ago, I was one of those people who was wondering how the Sunday trading ban would affect my life. Eight months after the law came into effect, many Polish consumers, including myself, do not see the law as significantly limiting their shopping options. With the trading ban set to become stricter over the next couple of years, the inconvenience may become more burdensome for the customers, leading the e-commerce sector to expand and evolve even more dynamically as a natural product of filling the gap.