Silent consumers won’t buy it

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Silent consumers won’t buy it

The main opposition Democratic United Party found itself on the hot seat when it proposed a regulatory bill in June to curb business hours and days for big-box stores and large discount retailers to protect mom-and-pop businesses and merchants at traditional markets. Consumers on the Web and social networking platforms called it anti-consumer and anti-working couple. They wondered where they were supposed to shop late in the day after small stores close. Some sneered at lawmakers for their offhand idea, saying they would not have come up with it if they had ever needed to shop late. They claimed such a clueless idea could only come from going around markets during election season.

We agree that regulations are rash in terms of their effect on consumers. But, obviously, consumer rights are not a priority, because the National Assembly’s Knowledge and Economy Committee passed a revised bill on superstore and chain discount retailers that would regulate their operating hours. Under the bill, business hours of big-box stores would be shortened to 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Currently, these stores can operate from 8 a.m. to midnight. They also are forced to close at least three days a month from the current two days monthly.

The move is intended to help mom-and-pop stores and other small merchants.

Somehow, politicians are engrossed with the idea that restricting business hours of large retailers will benefit small businesses. But superstores and big-box retailers are offshoots of a modern social lifestyle and higher living standards that have caused consumers to prioritize bargains and convenience. What came in response was the larger size and scale of retailers that cut into the business of street markets and corner stores.

It is foolish to think a simple law curbing business hours can reverse modern shopping and social trends. Small businesses hurt by the large scale and aggressive chain stores, must leverage their expertise and uniqueness in order to survive. The government and politicians should come up with incentives to stimulate their growth based on their strengths.

Yet, instead of studying ways to promote lasting sustainability and coexistence, they resorted to the easy way out by clamping down on the big boys. More importantly, they ignored consumers. What about working couples or shift workers who have no choice but to shop late at night or early in the morning? They forget that consumers are voters. The law must be killed by the National Assembly.

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