The proposed government’s plan to close shops at 9 p.m. will create heavy losses worth SR46 billion for retail businesses across the country, according to a report published by Al-Watan Arabic daily. Many people will also lose their jobs due to a cut in working hours.
The report, which was prepared by Saudi Fransi Capital, said the 9 p.m. closure would bring down actual shopping hours to four hours from 5 to 9 p.m. In the daytime, people will not get much time for shopping because of official and business engagements and the hot climate.
“People may also postpone purchases due to short time available for shopping,” the report said, adding that shopping hours of Western countries cannot be applied in countries like Saudi Arabia where people rarely go out for shopping in the day due to extreme hot weather conditions.
Speaking about the merits of 9 p.m. closure, Saudi Fransi Capital said it would encourage Saudis to work at retail shops as it would give them enough time to spend with their families. It will also increase the efficiency of workers as they would get more time to take rest, it added.
Currently, 1.2 million jobs in the retail sector are occupied by foreign workers who are ready to work 15 hours daily. Saudis, who find it difficult to compete with foreigners, have taken only 300,000 jobs in the sector, which can play a vital role in solving the Kingdom’s unemployment problem.
The fall in electricity consumption is another positive factor as annual commercial energy consumption will be brought down from 48 terawatt-hours to 40 or 44 terawatt-hours. It will also reduce traffic congestion and bottlenecks after 9 p.m. and cut fuel consumption of vehicles.
The Saudi Fransi Capital report proposed the closure of retail shops after 9 p.m. giving exemption to some essential service providers like pharmacies, restaurants, and fuel stations. Exemptions should also be given to the month of Ramadan and the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, it said.
“The project aims at encouraging Saudis, especially women, to accept jobs at retail shops, helping them to balance between work and family commitments,” the report pointed out.
The move will reduce the electric power consumption of commercial shops, it said, adding that the plan would reduce the need for security guards at shopping complexes.
“Early closure of shops will also change Saudis’ consumption style, bringing it closer to international patterns,” the report said.
Total spending of consumers in the Kingdom is estimated at SR416 billion, of which 35 percent or SR146 billion is spent after 9 p.m., the report explained.
About 20 percent of this amount goes to food and drinks, 15 percent to clothing and furniture, 30 percent to restaurants and hotels. The report feared a delay in spending SR20 billion in the retail sector until people change their style of shopping.
“Under the new circumstances, sales worth SR5 billion at retail shops will be affected,” the report said. Big shopping malls would be the biggest beneficiary of the 9 p.m. closure. The change in shopping style will affect the electronics and equipment market, Saudi Fransi Capital said in its report.