Fresh push for longer alcohol store hours

A board member for Sweden's state-run alcohol monopoly Systembolaget has caused a stir by calling for stores to be open on Sundays, but the company's management team has insisted that his suggestions are not likely to be implemented.

Fresh push for longer alcohol store hours
Inside a Systembolaget store. Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT
Carl B Hamilton, who is an economics professor and a former politician for the centre-right Liberal Party, made the controversial comments in debate article in Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter.
He argued that Systembolaget's opening hours should be “generally more flexible” and suggested that alcohol stores should catch up with supermarkets in city centres which are frequently open until 9pm or 10pm, allowing customers to shop for groceries and alcohol at the same time. 
Hamilton, who has long been on the board of directors for Systembolaget also called for branches to open on Sundays and praised the expansion of the click-and-collect service already offered by some Systembolaget stores.

A Swede heads home from a Systembolaget store. Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT 
According to the economist, much more work needs to be done “to provide a perfect service to sober adults” by making stores more convenient and considering the preferences of sensible customers. He argued that rather than making grown-ups feel “chastized” for buying alcohol, the company should instead focus on making it “more difficult and uncomfortable for teenagers to get hold of alcohol”.
However there would need to be a change in national law in order for opening hours to be changed at the state-owned company, which currently bans stores from remaining open after 8pm on weekdays and 3pm on Saturdays. And Systembolaget was quick to dismiss calls for the professor's plans to be implemented.
“The proposal that Systembolaget stores should be open on Sundays is something that Carl B Hamilton is suggesting as a politician, not in his capacity as being part of the board of directors at Systembolaget,” Terese Elmgren, a press spokesperson for the company, told The Local on Wednesday.
“This is not a question that has been discussed by Systembolaget's Board of Directors and it is not something that Systembolaget's management is working on…It's the Swedish parliament that makes the decisions about Systembolaget's opening hours,” she added.
Systembolaget's goal is to minimize alcohol-related problems by selling alcohol in a responsible way, without focusing on profits. Special offers and discounts such as “three for two” are banned from all stores.
The company emerged from local alcohol monopolies operating in Sweden since the mid-1800s, which were merged to form a single national firm in 1955.
Support for Systembolaget remains high, with a recent poll by TNS Sifo suggesting that 77 percent of Swedes back the system.
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