'Day of rest' could be holding the economy back by £1.5bn

Communities minister warns that current Sunday trading rules are "badly out of date", costing the UK economy an estimated £1.5bn over 10 years

Communities minister warns that current Sunday trading rules are “badly out of date”, costing the UK economy an estimated £1.5bn over 10 years

A government report today urged to devolve Sunday trading laws to local authorities, citing cost savings of £1.5 billion over 10 years.

Current Sunday trading laws were established over twenty years ago, when the internet was in its infancy and local retailers ruled town centres, facing very little competition from online behemoths. Now, over 95 per cent of British people are buying goods via internet retailers, and as of 2015, online sales continued to grow with a 15 per cent increase. Devolving power to choose Sunday trading hours to town councils is in effort to level the playing field for local high streets and bricks and mortar retailers competing against strong online competition from retailers that can trade 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“That’s why we want to change the rules, so families can shop for longer, town centre stores can compete with the online giants, and more jobs are created for working people,” Communities Minister Brandon Lewis said in a statement.

Greater freedoms for shop workers

Shop workers in England, Scotland and Wales can ‘opt-out’ of working Sundays if they object on religious grounds or for family reasons. Shop workers will get more protections under our plans for those that do not want to work Sundays and if people want to work longer, they will have that flexibility,” according to Business Minister Anna Soubry.

She emphasised the role of councils in deciding what is right for their communities, stating, “They know their businesses large and small and their residents.” 

The business community

76 per cent of respondents from the 7,000 surveyed local authorities, large and medium sized businesses and business representative organisations were in favour of devolving decision making on extending Sunday trading rules to a local level.

Research carried out on behalf of the New West End Company estimated that the net additional sales from a two hour extension to Sunday trading by retailers in the West End and Knightsbridge, the two key London shopping locations for international visitors, would be between £190 million and £290 million annually with between 1,070 and 2,160 full time equivalent jobs being created. 

Speaking on behalf of garden centres, an estimate from the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) revealed that forgoing Sunday trading would add £75 million in lost sales to the economy. 

Supermarkets remain indifferent

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) considered that trade could shift from convenience stores to supermarkets. ComRes research carried out on their behalf showed that 76 per cent of the public supported shops being allowed to open for six hours; a different ComRes poll carried out on behalf of the pressure group, Open Sundays, showed that 59 per cent of those polled would support a permanent extension of Sunday trading hours. 

Praseeda Nair

Kellen Rempel

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.

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