Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

Identifying Variables That Affect the Blue Law Phenomenon

Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

Identifying Variables That Affect the Blue Law Phenomenon

Article excerpt


The basic thrust of the paper is to attempt to determine through a statistical analysis what variables may have a predictive value in explaining the existence of blue laws in some states. Variables examined within the study include: (1) percent of women in workforce, (2) median years education of population, (3) median income of households, (4) percent of population/urban, (5) percent of business/sole proprietorship, (6) percent of population/full church member, and (7) distance of state from Massachusetts.


Effective merchandising has sometimes been defined as having the right product, in the right quantities, in the right place, at the right time, at the right price, with the right appeal. Essentially, these merchandising strategies are the "controllable" Four "Ps" (Product, Place, Promotion, Price) of the basic marketing mix utilized by McCarthy and Perreault in their marketing strategy planning process (6). This marketing strategy specifies a target market and a related marketing mix. Ideally, the targeted customer's wants and needs will match the merchandising strategies of the small business retailer. One of the most dominant trends in retailing today is that of increased market segmentation. Retailers who traditionally sought to serve the mass market have shifted their strategy to target more narrowly defined segments.

However, it must be noted that both small business retailers and large retailing firms cannot plan their marketing strategies in a vacuum. They have to work with several uncontrollable variables when targeting their customers and developing their merchandising strategies. Walters and Bergiel categorize these external environmental factors into four major areas: social, economic, competition, and government (13). Essentially, the major uncontrollable variables for a small retailer are: (1) consumer attitudes; (2) political and legal environment; (3) economic situation; (4) technological and competitive framework; (5) weather. These uncontrollable variables affect not only the retailer and his marketing strategy but also his target customers.

This paper deals specifically with only one of the legal uncontrollable variables. They are the "Sunday Closing Laws" which are commonly referred to as Blue Laws. The term Blue Law comes from the fact that the first Sunday Closing Laws were printed on blue paper. Sunday Closing Laws prohibit the conducting of business on Sunday. These statutes, which spring historically in this country from the puritanical heritage of New England (3), outlaw a variety of products and services from being sold on Sunday. Also, many of these laws exempt charities or allow localities to depart from the state law by maintaining their own variation of a blue law. As of 1989, eighteen states still had some type of blue law on their books.

The seemingly innocuous policy supporting blue laws is to establish a uniform or common day of rest and relaxation to promote the public health and well-being of the state. The reaction to blue laws, however, has become vocal and intense. Widespread efforts are currently underway to repeal or invalidate these laws either by state legislatures or by court action in challenging their constitutionality.

The frontal attack on blue laws has been initiated by large, retail corporations with the support of many consumers. Opposition to their repeal has been lead by religious groups and by retail merchants associations which predominantly represent small retailers who feel they cannot afford to staff their stores for an extra day as easily as their larger competitors (10).

During the last twenty years, the country's major retail markets have started staying open for business on Sundays. We have moved from thirty states having some form of "Blue Laws" to the current eighteen. How will this trend toward a repeal of blue laws affect small business retailers?

During the 1970s, a number of articles were written concerning the effects of "Sunday Openings" for retail stores. …

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