International News - Germany shakes up its Sale laws

Germany's Bundestag has approved changes to the country's competition law, liberalising the regulation of Sales to allow price reductions at any time of the year.

The changes could mean the end of a German retail institution, the end-of-season Schluflverkauf. The traditional two-week summer and winter Sales will still be possible, but there will be no fixed dates, and Sale goods will not be restricted to seasonal products.

Problems with the law were highlighted in 2002, when a Dusseldorf court forced C&A to end a discount on credit card purchases, intended to cut queues during the introduction of the euro.

However, the shift is also part of a wider review of German retail law aimed at lifting consumer spending.

In June last year, the Bundestag agreed changes to the laws regulating opening hours, allowing shops to stay open an extra four hours on Saturdays, until 8pm.

There has been widespread support for the latest changes, but Hubertus Pellengahr, spokesman for Hauptverband Deutscher Einzelhandels, the German Retailers Association, was more cautious.

He said: 'Retailers are losing two important national shopping events that got a lot of media publicity. Small and medium retailers that aren't in a position to publicise their Sales with expensive advertising campaigns are likely to be the ones that suffer.'