UPDATED: This article was published by Retail Week in August 2014, 20 years after The Sunday Trading Act came into force.

Twenty years to the month after the liberalisation of Sunday trading, more than half of consumers believe further relaxation of the rules would benefit high streets as they emerge from the downturn.

51% of consumers think that longer opening hours on Sundays would bring more people to high streets, which would be good for all traders, an ICM Research poll conducted for Retail Week to mark the anniversary of extended Sunday trading in England and Wales showed.

48% of consumers think that the law should be changed to enable large shops to open longer on Sundays. At present they are restricted to six hours of trading.

However, 31% of consumers are opposed to a change in the law, and  26% believe shops should not open at all on Sundays.

Rather than seeing longer opening hours for larger retailers as a threat, many consumer believe that changes could be helpful to all traders.

56% of consumers shop on Sundays in town or city centres or on local high streets, compared with 39% who visit out-of-town centres or retail parks.

The ICM poll for Retail Week also showed that young people are most supportive of longer Sunday opening hours.

Having grown up accustomed to shops being open on Sundays, under-45s gave greater backing for further Sunday trading liberalisation for big shops than those aged over 45 (55% vs 41%).

ICM research director Amanda Clack said: “For those under 35 years of age, Sunday shopping has been around for the majority of their lives, it is a key part of their weekly calendar and a lot of that activity is being driven into their local town centres.

“It is interesting to see that consumers are more likely to perceive Sunday Trading as beneficial for their local economy (51% agree) rather than their own lifestyle (35% agree).”

The types of shops most commonly visited on Sundays are supermarkets and food shops (71%), garden centres (33%) and home and DIY stores (31%). 

Consumers’ main priorities for Sunday trading were for big stores to be able to open longer (27%), for banks to be open (12%) and for more local and independent shops to be open (10%).