EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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November 14, 2012

In Massachusetts, blue laws hamper holiday store hours

Many NH stores open on Thanksgiving

In New Hampshire, Wal-Mart in Derry is opening its doors at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

In Massachusetts, shoppers will have to wait until Friday at 1 a.m. to go discount shopping at the big-box retailer at The Loop in Methuen.

Sears, meanwhile, located in The Mall at Rockingham Park in Salem, N.H., is opening at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

In Massachusetts, however, shoppers will have to wait until 12:30 a.m. to get a crack at Sears merchandise.

Across the country, major retailers are touting Thanksgiving Day openings to lure cost-conscious shoppers through their doors, except in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine, where so-called ‘‘blue laws” mostly prohibit stores from opening on Sundays and major holidays.

In those three states, people will have to wait until Black Friday — the traditional start of the Christmas shopping season.

The time differences are confusing to customers, perplexing to some politicians and downright silly to many retail organizations.

“Are we stopping people from shopping or are we just stopping them from shopping in Massachusetts?” asked Jon Hurst, president of the Massachusetts Retailers Association. “What is the case in 47 states isn’t the case in three New England states.”

He blamed the blue laws, saying they aren’t keeping up with smart-phone technology, where people can purchase products 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world.

“It’s a law that should be totally repealed or totally rewritten,” Hurst said.

That’s not likely to happen anytime soon.

The Massachusetts Legislature would have to rewrite the law, which would have to be signed by the governor, but the Legislature is out of session, meaning it’s not something that will come up until next year, at the earliest.

“I think, from a border community perspective, it’s a good idea” to repeal the law, said Linda Dean Campbell, a Democratic state representative from Methuen. “I’m very supportive of it. Abolishment of the laws would help border communities.”

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