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Swiss retail giants call for weaker franc

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Swiss retail giants call for weaker franc
Simon Aughton
12:08 CET+01:00

Swiss retailers Coop and Manor have joined forces to ask for a minimum exchange rate of 1.40 francs ($1.50) per euro and longer opening hours.

The supermarket and department store titans want the Swiss National Bank (SNB) to intervene again to lower the value of the national currency against the euro in order to fight retail tourism in bordering countries.

As long as the euro is not worth 1.30 francs ($1.39), the retail trade will suffer a competitive disadvantage against other countries," said Bertrand Jungo, head of Manor, in an interview with newspaper SonntagsBlick.

His counterpart at Coop, Joos Sutter, issued a similar message in a column published in the SonntagsZeitung. 

"A minimum exchange rate set at 1.45 francs ($1.55) would help us," he wrote, admitting the goal was “not realistic” and that a cap of 1.30 francs ($1.39) per euro would also be welcome.

On September 6th, the SNB set a minimum exchange rate of 1.20 francs ($1.28) to the euro in order to stop the "massive overvaluation" of Switzerland's national currency that has been hurting many industries and economic sectors, such as retail and tourism, for the last two years.

But establishing a new cap for the franc is not the only measure proposed by the heads of Coop and Manor to prevent millions of francs from leaking across the country's borders.

Both Sutter and Jungo also argue for an extension of opening hours in Switzerland in order to compete with the longer shopping days on offer at the other side of the border.  

The Manor chief cited the example of Germany's opening hours.

"In December, the shops were open until as late as midnight," said Jungo, pointing out that customers can cross the border and continue shopping once stores in Basel have closed.

He stopped short of calling for a full liberalization of opening times, which are set by the individual cantons, instead suggesting that shops be kept open until 8pm from Monday to Saturday.

Sutter proposed another measure to fight shopping tourism: reducing the duty-free limit, currently 300 francs ($321), for goods purchased abroad.

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