Lugner argues Sunday shopping campaign

Richard Lugner has revealed details about his Sunday shopping initiative.

The businessman – who owns and manages Vienna’s Lugner City shopping centre – recently said he contacted Social Democratic (SPÖ) Mayor Michael Häupl to find out whether the city of Vienna might issue an extraordinary regulation enabling him to open on the seventh day of the week.

Lugner said he failed to understand why supermarkets, butcher’s shops, souvenir stores and bakeries in tourist regions in the Austrian mountains may open seven days a week while he is restricted to do business between Monday and Saturday.

The entrepreneur also complained about competition disadvantages against stores located at Vienna’s General Hospital (AKH) and the city’s major stations like Westbahnhof since these businesses may operate on Sundays as well.

The businessman said yesterday (Thurs) he would abstain from opening his mall on Sunday morning so people could attend masses. Lugner said: “Many young employees want to earn something extra. They have no problem with being on duty on Sundays.”

Lugner underlined that staff working on Sundays received twice the regular salary. “Employees who do not wish to work on Sunday are free to go for a walk or do whatever they wish,” he told a radio station.

Lugner is well aware of the strong influence the Catholic Church has on political developments in Austria – despite declining membership numbers and widespread disinterest in religious topics among young people.

Häupl denied commenting on how he planned to react to Lugner’s appeal. A spokesman for the mayor’s office announced that there would be no solution without involving the Economy Chamber (WKO), works council leaders and the Federal Trade Union’s (ÖGB) Viennese branch.

Reports have it that Lugner struggles to get some of Vienna’s other main shopping centres onboard due to disagreements considering details about his call for extended opening hours. However, they already reached an accord considering the period ahead of next Christmas. Lugner said he wanted to do business on every Sunday in December 2012. This idea has the support of the managers of most of the capital’s biggest shopping centres.

Lugner – who called on the Federal Constitutional Court (VfGH) to find out whether city hall and federal lawmakers had the right to ban him from opening shops on Sundays last year – said earlier this week that his mall achieved a turnover of 143.3 million Euros in 2011. He pointed out that this was an improvement of 11.5 per cent compared to 2010.

Brigitte Jank, who heads the Viennese branch of the WKO, accused Lugner of trying to cause a dispute between mall bosses and managers of stores located in shopping streets. Jank said she disagreed with his strategy while Lugner said he wondered whether the system in Austria was still a social market economy. He hit back at Jank by claiming that she tried nothing but to secure the support of the many retail trade entrepreneurs in the next chamber election.

The Austrian Hotel Industry Association (ÖHV) made aware of a study showing that Vienna’s trade had chances to rake in an additional 50 million Euros a year if shops were allowed to do business on the final day of the week. The organisation claimed that hotels could register 325,000 more overnight stays if the 72-hour business ban was lifted due to tourists’ interest in Sunday shopping.