Until now, Ghent retailers had to keep their doors closed on Sundays or bank holidays, except for the so-called shopping Sundays (each first Sunday of the month) or when they sent an official request six months ahead.
Shop owners will have the choice to open, they don't have to. Some think that it will not make a big difference in a first stage, because of the corona pandemic, but that it will make a big difference in the long run.
There has been a long debate on the issue in the city council in recent years. Critics say that small businesses will feel obliged to open and will see work pressure increasing. Local residents are afraid it will trigger busy roads. But the Ghent alderwoman Sofie Bracke (liberal) defends the new situation: "We want to go for more freedom for traders."
The organisation for the self-employed UNIZO also gives the new status thumbs up. "Local retailers are seeing more competition from e-commerce these days. The change will give them more tools to compete as they can offer personal advice and personal contacts."
The news will also be welcomed by the many tourists in Ghent, both from Belgium and abroad, who were confronted with closed shops and empty shopping streets on Sundays.