Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- Genevans will no longer have to desert their city every Sunday.

The French-speaking canton, which has strict laws that regulate shopping, voted in favor of keeping stores open three Sundays a year, and on Dec. 31, according to the cantonal government’s website. The move may provide a small boost to retailers who have been hit by the Swiss central bank’s decision to abolish its ceiling on the franc last year.

Residents and visitors typically find Geneva empty on Sundays. Most shops stay shut, except a few at the train station and the airport. The canton, on the western tip of Lake Geneva, shares a 100-kilometer (63-mile) border with France, where several food stores and markets stay open on Sundays.

While some Genevans shop in France since it’s cheaper, opening hours are a factor, said Jacques Jeannerat, executive director of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce. Jeannerat expects retailers in Geneva to benefit from the vote. “It gives them a small chance to compete on a slightly more equal footing with French shops,” he said in a telephone interview.

Franc woes

The result of the vote will likely let shops in Geneva stay open one Sunday during the city’s Lake Festival, which takes place in the summer and attracts thousands of tourists, and two Sundays before Christmas, Jeannerat said. “It’s important for Geneva, in particular as the exchange rate with the euro is currently unfavorable to local retailers.”

Even after the vote, shops won’t be able to open for more than four Sundays or holidays a year, in line with existing laws at the federal level. The right to rest on Sundays is an important part of Swiss culture, said Francois Longchamp, the head of the Geneva cantonal government.

“Shops that are closed on Sundays may not be adapted to today’s world, but we aren’t heading to a place where stores are open 24/7,” he said in an interview before the vote. “In a world where there are no rhythms anymore, the Swiss remain attached to making a pause on Sundays.”

--With assistance from Catherine Bosley and Zoe Schneeweiss To contact the reporter on this story: Albertina Torsoli in Geneva at atorsoli@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Vidya Root at vroot@bloomberg.net, Adveith Nair

©2016 Bloomberg L.P.

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