In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, customers can already buy food in certain shops on Sundays. The test could now be transferred to other federal states. FOCUS online says where the sales ban is crumbling on Sunday – and what that means for your shopping.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is the first federal state to address shop opening times. For the first time, customers can also shop on Sundays in so-called smart stores, i.e. fully automated stores. The Shop Closing Act previously only permitted such options in exceptional cases. This is the first time that Germany is taking a step towards liberalizing shop opening times, as other federal states are also planning corresponding measures, as the “Lebensmittel Zeitung” (LZ) reports. In addition to Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Hesse and Lower Saxony have also examined legal adjustments. In Hesse, the regulation could already apply in the summer.

The federal states mentioned are not an isolated case. Five other state governments are planning approval for fully automated businesses. These include Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein and Thuringia. At the same time, an expansion of the current opening times is planned, according to the LZ.

In order to make retail competitive in the future, innovations and investments by retail companies in digitalization processes are essential, explained the Hessian trade association, for example. “It is urgently necessary in retail not to close oneself to technical and social developments in order to be able to best meet the needs of customers at all times.”

Only Berlin, Brandenburg, Bremen, Hamburg and North Rhine-Westphalia adhere to rigid shop opening times. For the time being, these countries are not planning any special permits for small sales outlets or Sunday opening times.

Smart stores are very popular in Austria, for example. There, customers can buy the most important groceries and drugstore items from vending machines in empty shops. Milk, butter, bread, cheese, yogurt, cornflakes, toilet paper and shampoo. The stores operate without staff and customers pay with their bank cards. Smart stores are usually closed in the evening.

In Germany, such shops on Sundays have so far operated in a legal gray area. The operation was therefore often not worthwhile. This could now change with clear legal regulations. Automated sales points could be interesting to ensure basic supplies in rural areas.

The first smart stores are already there. They sell everyday goods using customer cards, shelf sensors and security cameras. The customer logs in, receives an access card and can then shop in the business premises. Payment is made by direct debit or bank card. However, the branches are not yet allowed to sell products on Sundays.

The legal realignment could also be interesting for farms, which are often equipped with milk and sausage machines. They could then also offer their products on the farm on Sundays, provided no staff is needed.

The background to the debate about the store opening is, among other things, a ruling by the Hessian Administrative Court. At the end of December, judges decided that the closure of the “Tegut Teo” sales outlets, which were operated without staff, on Sundays by the city of Fulda was legal. Since then, most Teo branches in Hesse have remained closed on Sundays – with the exception of two shops on train station premises.

Stationary retail is not affected by the changed store opening times for the time being. The strict closing time on Sundays should be maintained here. However, there are already numerous exceptions. In several federal states, large retail chains such as Rewe, Edeka, Lidl and Aldi are allowed to open their stores on Sundays if, for example, they are near train stations or airports. This is intended to give travelers the opportunity to stock up on food.

The introduction of a new legal regulation regarding the opening of automated sales outlets in Germany could change the everyday shopping lives of many people.

The scheme also aims to close supply gaps in rural and less densely populated areas. Automated outlets open 24 hours a day could become a reliable source of fresh food, particularly useful for residents in remote areas.

With the possible opening on Sundays, households can also plan their purchases more flexibly and are no longer limited exclusively to working days. This is particularly advantageous if you hardly find time to do your daily shopping during the week.

Despite the many benefits that automated stores bring, some consumers may have concerns about surveillance and protecting their privacy, as these stores often use extensive video surveillance and data collection. The operators of such businesses should offer transparent data protection policies and strictly adhere to them.