How will repeal of blue laws affect businesses?

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By Chris Sardelli

Now that the blue laws that restricted retailers from selling many goods until after 1:30 p.m. on Sunday have been repealed here, businesses and organizations are wondering how it will affect them.

Ann Curtsinger, co-manager of Wal-Mart in Lancaster, said she’s not sure how the repeal will affect sales at her location.

“I don’t know how quickly it will create more jobs, it’s really hard to gauge,” she said.

In terms of increased sales, she expects there to be a delayed reaction as residents become adjusted to the new hours.

“It’s really hard to say because so many people here are in the mode that they go to church on Sundays,” Curtsinger said. “It will take time for people to realize.”

Curtsinger doesn’t expect to see a surge in business in the early hours on Sunday, but said the new hours will definitely help Wal-Mart during holidays.

She has spoken to some customers who were frustrated with the restrictions on which items they could buy at the local Wal-Mart before 1:30 p.m. on Sundays. She said they would shop in other counties.

“I’m sure we lost some sales to places like Charlotte,” she said. “It inconvenienced a lot of people.”

The restrictions were also a headache to Wal-Mart cashiers. Managers sometimes had to intervene and tell customers they couldn’t sell an item to them because it wasn’t yet 1:30 p.m.

The Wal-Mart store here is open 24 hours a day.

The blue laws permitted the sale of most groceries and medicines before 1:30 p.m., but prohibited the sale of items such as clothing and appliances until after 1:30 p.m. on Sundays.

Alcohol sales, however, are prohibited all day Sunday, and this restriction remains in effect in the county on Sundays.

Curtsinger said the repeal of the blue laws will make cashiers’ jobs at Wal-Mart a little easier.

“Whatever it is, either do it or don’t, either close us for the whole day or repeal the blue laws, because it causes frustration for the customers and we take flack for it,” Curtsinger said. “I think the tension will be alleviated and the cashiers will have a sigh of relief because they won’t have to tell the customers they can’t buy something (on Sunday).”

Dean Faile, president of the Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce, said large businesses will take advantage of the new hours. He expects many of the larger retail stores will have additional employee working hours, which in turn will increase employees’ wages.

“Those big businesses are savvy and they are not going to open if it’s not profitable,” Faile said. “It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens.”

Faile said he received positive input from local businesses excited about the change, especially since it allows consumers more local outlets in which to do their shopping.

“Many managers personally thanked me for the chamber’s involvement because now they can be competitive with stores in sister counties,” Faile said.

Carrie Miller, events coordinator for See Lancaster, said the repeal should have a positive effect on the community.

“I think it’s a good thing. It gives all businesses an even playing field to do business on,” Miller said. “Its a good economic boost and allows us to compete with neighboring counties.”

Miller said she hasn’t heard yet whether any smaller businesses, such as those in the downtown Lancaster area, plan to open earlier on Sundays.

With longer hours and no restrictions on retail products, Miller said this should allow residents and visitors to spend their money within the county. And as for its effect on people being able to worship on Sundays, Miller said people’s routines will most likely remain the same.

“I don’t think it will change too much,” she said. “I think if people are going to church, they will continue to go.”

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli  at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416