Poll: Vast Majority of Storekeepers Don’t Want to Work on Shabbos

Shops on Yerushalayim's Jaffa Street are reflected on the window of Cafe Neeman coffee shop. Photo by Mendy Hechtman/Flash90
Shops on Yerushalayim’s Jaffa Street are reflected on the window of Cafe Ne’eman coffee shop. (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)

A new poll of small businesses in Israeli cities indicates that the vast majority – 92 percent – are not interested in opening their stores on Shabbos. The poll, taken by the CofaceBDI organization, polled a cross-section of small and medium-sized retail businesses throughout Israel, and discovered that there was little desire on the part of storeowners or customers for Shabbos shopping.

According to the poll, only 8 percent of storeowners said that they wanted to operate on Shabbos but were unable to do so because of local bylaws. Moreover, only 2 percent said they had received requests from customers to open on Shabbos.

One of the arguments for allowing businesses to operate on Shabbos inside cities, where such operation is illegal, has been that businesses “lose out” to malls and shopping centers outside the city limits that operate on Shabbos. However, the poll showed that only 21 percent of storeowners believed they would make more money if they operated on Shabbos, while 47 percent said they would actually lose money, given the expenses, competition, and lack of customers, as religious and traditional Israelis would not patronize stores on the holy day. 32 percent felt they would earn as much on Shabbos as on a weekday.

According to pollsters, the main reason given by storeowners as to why they did not want to open on Shabbos, including among secular storeowners who felt there was some economic advantage to doing so, was because they felt they worked hard enough the rest of the week and deserved a day off. Many others felt that there was no economic advantage to doing so, while a large percentage stressed that they themselves had a religious or traditional lifestyle and were not interested in working on Shabbos.

In response to the poll, the Shabbos Equality Coalition, which advocates for the closure of all businesses on Shabbos on the grounds that those who operate have an unfair advantage over those who do not, said that the poll results “are further proof that the majority of Israeli businesses do not wish to operate on Shabbos, but prefer to spend time with their families on a weekly day of rest.”