Early closing for shopping malls on Sundays, initially a temporary measure put in place during the Covid pandemic, has in many cases become a permanent switch.
Mall operators have cited retailers' desire to save on payroll costs, and also to resolve staffing issues, as the main factor in the earlier closures, from later on in the evening, to 7 p.m. in many cases.
Tallinn's malls led the way but those in other towns, such as the Lõunakeskus in Tartu, have followed suit, AK reported.
Lõunakeskus reduced its opening hours from Sunday, January 7, by two hours, closing at 7 p.m. where it had previously been open until 9 p.m.
Marju Jeedas, Lõunakeskus CEO, told ERR that the cause is primarily the desire to facilitate finding and retaining staff.
Reducing Sunday evening working hours would help here, store owners themselves had told Jeedas, while low customer numbers at this time also influenced the choice.
At the same time, this should not be taken as a sign of falling customer numbers generally, at least in Tartu Lõunakeskus' cases.
Jeedas said customer throughflow had risen by 16 percent in the past year, with 6.2 million visitors in 2023.
The Ülemiste Keskus in Tallinn made the temporary switch to shorter Sunday opening hours back in 2020 with the arrival of Covid and its accompanying restrictions, but in summer of the same year, opted to make the change permanent.
Two other major shopping malls in the capital, the Kristiine Keskus and the Rocca al Mare mall, did the same, also during the pandemic.
Kristjan Maaroos, manager of both malls, told ERR that this had followed analysis of what happened to customer figures when the temporary change had been made.
Maaroos noted that Sunday evenings are in any case very quiet, making it often not cost-effective for retailers to stay open at that time
"On the other hand, as a shopping mall, we want tenant stores to all be open at the same times, so that when a customer comes to the building, they can be sure it will be open - we can't let everyone have to check when they close," Maaroos added.
The Viru Keskus in Tallinn and Kaubamaja in Tartu are also closing earlier on Sundays now, with the exception of supermarkets, which, Maaroos said, work by their own timetable.
"It seems that in Estonia they have so much competition that no one dares to take this step (of shortening opening hours – ed.); they look at the convenience of the customer first," he said.
Maaroos surmised that aside from that, the Viru and Kaubamaja malls switching to shorter Sunday opening hours was likely done for the same reasons as the malls he manages have done.
The 2023 financial reports are still under preparation, Maaroos added, so the direct effects of shorter Sunday opening cannot be clearly stated yet, though he added that the effects of the recession were likely to impact the figures.
"People are perhaps more aware and more selective about what they buy. There is less impulse buying going on," he said.
No further changes in the opening hours of the two malls he manages are currently planned, Maaroos went on.
Editor: Andrew Whyte