The Armchair Mayor is on staycay this week. In place of his usual daily editorials and column, we offer blasts from the past. The following column was originally published May 23, 1986 as the debate raged over Sunday shopping.
THERE ARE TWO KINDS of stores in Kamloops: those that open Sundays and those that soon will.
There are also those who want to open Sundays, and those who have to.
Most people in Kamloops, if you can believe referendum results, don’t want Sunday shopping, which means all those stores opening Sundays are doing so against the wishes of the people who pay their way.
Which is passing strange, given the mobs of people who have been showing up at those stores on Sunday.
Not so strange, really, if they’re like me. When it came to voting on the matter I did all the mental examination of the issue from a social point of view: religious considerations, the effect on families, and so on.
That done, and the floodgates of Sunday shopping now open, I will shop on Sunday if it suits me at the moment. Any good K-Mart shopper will, after all, find it difficult to pass up a blue-light special at any time, be it Sunday or week day.
When I see an advertisement that tells me such-and-such a store is going to be open on Sunday, or if I drive past and see a full parking lot, I’ll stop there if I need something.
If I don’t have time, I’ll wait a day or two. I suppose that, for some, Sunday shopping is some sort of major event, like going on a picnic or to the movies. To me, it’s just another day and, while I’ve purchased something on only two Sundays since the stores started opening, I’ve appreciated the convenience.
If stores are suddenly forced to close Sundays, I’ll live.
So will other consumers, but merchants are fighting a battle quite separate from the public right now. Initially, the question was whether Sunday opening would increase profits, or simply increase hassle (spreading staff over an extra day, etc.).
Now, it’s a matter of keeping up with the competition.
First it was a few individual stores that opened, and now it’s the malls. The supermarkets are now joining in. That puts a lot of pressure on everybody else to open up, no matter what their opinion is on moral or legal issues.
Downtown merchants are in a particular pickle right now. They’ve been fighting for the survival of their shopping area for years, as peripheral facilities such as Sahali Centre and Aberdeen Mall were allowed to develop, taking valuable business out of the core.
A massive facelift of Victoria Street helped a few years ago, but an attempt to promote an arena upgrading and further street redevelopment failed. Now, the downtown core is watching the malls open up and threaten them further.
Most downtown merchants don’t want to open Sundays. They are, basically, small operations that can’t shuffle staff and resources the way the department stores do. Many of them already put in six days a week at work. To them, Sunday is the only break they get, and now that’s being taken away from them.
They may have no choice, though. The Sunday issue is all but settled. The provincial government has not discouraged, and may even have engineered, Sunday opening. With the act governing Sunday closures in legal question, with the provincial decision to allow Sunday drinking during Expo, and with more and more stores opening up, there’s not going to be any turning back.
Police and the court system are in a tough spot. All the RCMP can do is answer complaints and do their job. But how many charges have you heard filed? Why bother, when Sunday opening will soon be official.
Which it will, so learn to live with it. And to enjoy it, as much as possible.
Mel Rothenburger has been writing about Kamloops since 1970.