Swarovski manager angered by ‘schizophrenic’ Sunday shopping ban

Swarovski Kristallwelten (Crystal Worlds) boss Andreas Braun has attacked lawmakers for failing to allow the crystal shop in Vienna to open on Sundays.The manager said today that (Weds) “pseudo arguments” have been used to fight the 1,200 square-metre Swarovski store in Kärntner Street from doing business seven days a week.”Some fed-up, envious locals have been fighting Sunday business-making with pseudo arguments,” he told the Kurier newspaper.Braun, who runs the company’s Kristallwelten open air museum in the Tyrolean town of Wattens, also claimed many international companies are put off opening businesses in the Austrian capital due to the bylaw which prevents shops from opening on Sundays.”We are not allowed to do business in a city which would like to be a glamorous metropolis. This is schizophrenic,” the Tyrolean said.Swarovski invested 15 million Euros in its store in the heart of Vienna which opened last December. Braun, who masterminded the project, said at that time he expected around 800,000 shoppers per year.Vienna is risking becoming less popular for tourists from all over the world if decision-makers continue to ban trading on Sundays, according to a survey presented by the Austrian Hotel Industry Association (ÖHV). ÖHV President Peter Peer explained in May that research suggested the capital’s trade would rake in an extra 50 million Euros a year if all stores were allowed to do business on Sundays. Around 325,000 more overnight stays would be possible as well, he said.Apart from a few specific exceptions, most kinds of shops have never been allowed to open Sundays in Austria. The Roman Catholic Church’s strong influence in the country has been identified as the main reason why there has been no change to the regulations so far.Around 46.58 million overnights were registered across Austria between May and August of this year, up by 1.1 per cent compared to the summer season of 2009. Vienna recorded 4.8 million overnight stays in the first six months of 2010, up by 12.9 per cent compared to figures in the previous year.Speaking about the Kristallwelten, Braun revealed around half of its overall turnover is made by attracting organised tourist trips. “Our marketing team exists of 20 members. They are in touch with 20,000 holiday companies.”The businessman announced research has shown travellers from Japan spend just 12 minutes at the venue, 33 minutes less than the average visitor. “They head straight to the shop. It seems they are fascinated by buying at the source,” he said, adding that studies have shown Russians spend twice as much as most other guests.The attraction registers around 700,000 visitors a year, and Braun said he saw potential to break the one-million visitors barrier. “We’ve started focusing on events for children, workshops, concerts and clubbings. Seventy per cent of Tyroleans consider the Kristallwelten as part of their culture – that makes us proud,” Braun stressed.The Kristallwelten museum was created by Austrian artist Andre Heller in 1995 when Swarovski celebrated its 100th anniversary. The company has remained tight-lipped about precise visitor and turnover figures, but reports have it that almost 10 million people came to see the attraction.Swarovski is one of the strongest Austrian brands in the world. The company has, however, “massively suffered” last year, according to its board. The firm announced in May to diminish the number of positions at its headquarter facility in Wattens by 200 every year until 2014.Swarovski explained the plan was to avoid sacking staff, adding that it wanted to reduce its workforce by not hiring new employees following retirements. Around 5,000 people are currently working in Swarovski’s factory in Wattens. The company said it would continue relocating various production activities abroad to slash costs.