Sunday shopping brightens economic outlook

North Dakota State Roundup

Published April 1, 1991  | April 1991 issue

For the first time in 101 years, North Dakotans can buy just about anything they want on Sundays.

A bill rescinding the nation's last, and what many considered the most restrictive, blue laws—forbidding sales of certain items on Sundays—was signed into law in early February.

While many lawmakers supported the bill on its face value, the possibility of new rural economic development money convinced the two- thirds majority to support immediate enactment.

Predictions are that increased sales tax revenue generated by Sunday shopping will reach $20 million by mid-1992. Based on those predictions and state budget projections, once $11 million of that additional tax revenue is received, the next $9.5 million will be earmarked for rural economic development programs. With the greatest economic benefits of Sunday shopping expected in the state's cities, this is one way that the rural contingent also benefits, says Dale Anderson, president, Greater North Dakota Association.

The new law rules out Sunday liquor sales and dictates that stores may not sell any of the previously prohibited items before noon. Additionally, there are provisions that protect employees from working seven days in a row and mall store owners from being forced to open Sundays. But while many stores are opening on Sundays, the state's automobile dealers support separate pending legislation that will exempt them from Sunday opening.

West Acres Mall in Fargo has already seen some benefits from the change in the law. "Traffic at the entrance was up about 10 percent the first week of Sunday opening," says Brad Schlossman, CEO of West Acres Development which manages the mall. "We expected it to start slowly, but it started with a bang," Schlossman says, adding that mall traffic was down after the Persian Gulf War started and February is generally the slowest month.

"We'll notice the real impact in March," says Jim Fuglie, the state's tourism director, pointing to the Canadian market. According to a study done by the Department of Tourism, 94 percent of Canadians interviewed said shopping was the primary reason for coming to North Dakota. And because Canadians have one three-day weekend each month, Sunday shopping is the focus of a tourism department advertising campaign in the Winnipeg and Regina markets. "We'll start selling a lot of motel rooms in March," Fuglie says.

Kathy Cobb