FARGO - West Acres mall walkers will soon have some company on Sunday mornings: shoppers.
North Dakota stores will no longer be restricted on when they can open on Sundays starting in August. When the first Sunday, Aug. 4., rolls around, many mall merchants, including longtime mall anchor JC Penney, will be opening at 11 a.m., said Alissa Adams, the mall’s senior vice president of marketing and business development.
Some stores can choose to open earlier. For example, mall anchor Best Buy will open at 10 a.m., an employee confirmed Thursday.
- Construction, store expansions continuing at Fargo's West Acres mall
“We think that the 11 a.m. hour is an opening time that will be productive for our stores and also convenient for our shoppers,” Adams said Wednesday, July 24. “We’ll continue to evaluate hours and see if it (demand) warrants an earlier opening, but for now we’re starting with 11 a.m.
Some of the food court businesses are already open at 11 a.m., she added.
“It’s an opening time that is common for mall tenants across the country on a Sunday,” Adams said.
Property Manager Chris Heaton thinks the change will be good.
“I think people will be looking forward to it,” Heaton said Wednesday.
Starting earlier will depend on the numbers of shoppers, he said.
“We’ll keep an eye on things. We never rule anything out,” Heaton said.
Fixing to open early
FARGO - Do it yourselfers will have a few more hours to get their supplies shopped before they git ‘er done once August rolls around and North Dakota’s Sunday closing blue law is tossed in the dustbin at the start of August.
Big toolbox stores Menards in West Fargo and Lowe’s, Fleet Farm and Home Depot in Fargo have all committed to opening at 8 a.m. on Sundays beginning Aug. 4, managers said Thursday, June 25. All of them said it was a typical opening time for their chains.
Bulk buyers can also stock up sooner. Warehouse stores Sam’s Club and Costco will both open at 10 a.m. on Sundays, employees confirmed.
Fargo’s Walmart stores will be open 24/7 on Sundays, said Orlando Washington, the manager of the Walmart Supercenter on 13th Avenue South.
“Oh, yeah, we can’t wait,” Washington said Thursday.
A Target spokesperson said on July 10 that it would open its stores at 7 a.m. on Sundays in Fargo, Grand Forks and Bismarck. The Minot store will open an hour later.
Kohl’s in Fargo will open at 9 a.m. on Sundays.
“That’s the start time of all of our regular stores. We do have different store hours for some of our outliers,” Store Manager. Rochelle Rehm said. “We’re very excited for it.”
Scheels All Sports on 45th Street South will open at 11 a.m. on Sundays, Assistant Store Leader. Brandon Moser said Wednesday.
‘Hopefully, people embrace it’
FARGO - Getting an early start on Sunday shopping in Fargo's downtown will be a hit and miss proposition for awhile.
One of the first retailers to commit is Sally Loeffler, owner of the Beyond Running and Outermost Layer on North Broadway.
On Wednesday, July 24, she said she figured she would open about 10 a.m.
“There’s a lot of people downtown Sunday mornings,” Loeffler said. “Sundays are typically our biggest days, dollars for hours.”
After all, it’s the day of the week most people have the time to shop, she said.
“We’re certainly excited” to be able to open, Loeffler said. “Hopefully, people embrace it.”
A block away, Zandbroz Variety store manager Josie Danz, says the store will stick with its regular noon to 5 p.m. Sunday hours - for now.
“So far, we don’t have any plans to open earlier on Sunday.s That may change eventually” or perhaps for holidays, Danz said.
“If we see a need for it, it will be great to have that option to be open on Sundays,” Danz said.
Ashley Morken, owner of the Unglued shop, said Wednesday that she may eventually consider earlier hours than her current noon to 4 p.m., but “not right away.”
Morken said it took awhile to get people to spend some of their Sunday afternoons shopping downtown. She’ll wait to see how well people adapt to earlier hours elsewhere in the city.
Stabo Scandinavian Imports is sticking with noon to 4 p.m. Boots and Heels is also sticking with noon to 4 p.m. for now, though the store could shift to 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., owner Amber Sander said.
Freedom to choose
Fargo businessman Brandon Medenwald has led efforts since 2016 to try to convince lawmakers to reverse North Dakota’s restrictions on Sunday opening.
Now, he’s going to do some shopping.
“I’m glad that the time has finally come,” Medenwald said Wednesday, July 24.
“It’s almost a pinch myself I’m dreaming moment. I’m incredibly excited here,” Medenwald said.
“I will absolutely be shopping on the first Sunday morning, just to say that I’ve done it. And then after that, I probably won’t do it again for the rest of the year. But I will do it on the first Sunday just because it will be possible for the first time since we’ve been a state,” he said.
Medenwald said the freedom to choose is important..
“Our goal was to never to make sure that every business was actually be open on Sunday. Our goal was just to let the ones that wanted to, have the option to do so if they choose,” he said.
“If people decide to stay home on Sunday mornings and not shop, that’s great. If stores decide to stay closed. That’s great. It was just about having those options. That’s what we fought for very hard for,” Medenwald said.
A long grind to shop
In March of this year, Gov. Doug Burgum signed into law the bill to end Sunday closing restrictions, saying it would help North Dakota stores compete with online retailers and stores in bordering states.
Under state law, it has been a Class B misdemeanor to operate a business before noon on Sunday, with a long list of exceptions for restaurants, hotels, movie theaters and other establishments. Violators of the Sunday closing law face, at most, 30 days in prison and a $1,500 fine.
The fight for unrestricted Sunday opening has been a decades-long grind.
Lawmakers made North Dakota the last state to permit Sunday shopping in 1991 by allowing it after noon.
Rep. Shannon Roers Jones, R-Fargo, championed the successful effort to roll back Sunday restrictions. Still, the issue divided lawmakers who leaned on religious arguments and those who saw the ban as an intrusion on free enterprise.
The bill didn’t affect North Dakota law on vehicle sales by dealerships, which are not allowed on Sundays. Nor does it expand the hours that licensed establishments can sell liquor. No alcohol sales are allowed between 2 a.m. and 11 a.m.
A job generator
Retail accounts for 11.2 percent of all jobs in North Dakota and the outlook for the sector is growth. According to North Dakota Job Service Labor Market Information and Infogroup of Omaha, Neb., there are 5,047 employers in retail trade.
-- Cass County has 1,064 employers in retail trade
-- Burleigh County has 638
-- Grand Forks County has 434
-- Ward County has 442
-- Morton County has 179
-- Stark County has 225
-- Williams County has 289
-- Richland County has 107
-- Stutsman County has 118
-- Ramsey County has 115
Workin’ for a living
It’s estimated that there were 49,220 people employed in the retail sector in 2016. That is projected to grow 4.4 percent to 51,405 by 2026.
Retail employees by county
Number of retail employees by county, fourth quarter estimate for 2018
Cass County 13,210
Burleigh County 7,385
Grand Forks County 5,993
Ward County 5,088
Williams County 2,310
Stark County 2,033
Stutsman County 1,390
Morton County 1,292
Ramsey County 918
Richland County 726
Average weekly wage in retail
The average weekly wage in retail in North Dakota is $623. Over a 40-hour workweek, that is $15.58 per hour or just over $32,400 per year. (Fourth quarter of 2018)
Average weekly wages for select counties, fourth quarter of 2018
-- Burke County $921
-- Steele County $808
-- Williams County $786
-- Morton County $782
-- Cavalier County $759
-- Stark County $731
-- Burleigh County $654
-- Cass County $612
-- Grand Forks $592
-- Stutsman County $587
Who’s working where?
Distribution of occupations in the retail sector: 2016 estimates
Retail salespeople 11,544
Stock clerks, order fillers 3,989
First-line supervisors in retail 3,413
Laborers and freight, stock
And material movers 1,691
Auto service tech, mechanics 1,249
All food prep, serving workers 1,191
General, operations managers 966
Customer service representatives 871
Parts salespersons 835