The Government has today launched its consultation into providing local areas with the power to decide on Sunday trading.
The reforms, which were revealed by Chancellor George Osborne in his summer Budget on July 8, could provide mayors and local authorities, or a combination of both, with the power to determine Sunday trading hours for larger shops.
Retail is divided on whether larger shops should be open for longer on Sundays. Some business leaders argue it will take sales from independent retailers and larger retailers with small format stores, while retailers with large stores say it will benefit the customer.
But under government plans for high streets to “grow and thrive”, the devolution could lead to mayors or local authorities effectively zoning off parts of their town or city. That could see changes made to Sunday trading hours on high streets, with current laws in out-of-town locations such as retail parks potentially still being retained.
“Modern Sunday trading laws have the potential to create thousands of jobs across the country”
Anna Soubry, business minister
The consultation into Sunday trading is being overseen by the department for business, innovation and skills and the department for communities and local government.
Communities minister Brandon Lewis said: “This Government is determined to devolve powers previously held in Whitehall to local people. That’s why we want to give local leaders the power to decide whether Sunday trading is right for their area, and to give their retailers the option to stay open for longer.”
Business minister Anna Soubry added: “Modern Sunday trading laws have the potential to create thousands of jobs across the country and help British businesses to thrive.
“Today’s consultation gives business, shoppers and interested groups the chance to have their say on Sunday trading.”
Call for response
The legislation present Sunday trading hours operate under was introduced in 1994. The law prevents large stores from opening for more than six hours, while shops that are smaller than than 3,000 sq ft can open all day.
The Government is calling for businesses, shoppers and other interest groups to respond to the consultation on the proposed changes.
Arcadia tycoon Sir Philip Green said: “This is a vital initiative to keep London’s reputation as a premium and exciting shopping destination. We recognise there is an incredibly high level of expectation from customers in terms of retail theatre, exciting product and customer service when they travel into the West End and to Knightsbridge. The Crossrail, job creation and trading flexibility are all pivotal in future-proofing London against our global competitors.”
Harrods managing director Michael Ward said:“Harrods has been a supporter of increasing Sunday trading hours for some time. We have always believed that our customer, and in particular our international visitor, should be able to shop at a time which is convenient for them. We found during the Olympics, when hours were temporarily extended on a Sunday, that trade generated was genuinely incremental and was well received by our customers.”
Dixons Carphone group chief executive Sebastian James added: “We welcome the proposals to allow local people to determine whether they should be able to shop for longer on Sundays.
“We live or die by whether we deliver for our customers, and if a community would like more time at the weekend to choose a new TV, phone, fridge or computer, then it will be good for our business to be allowed to offer that choice. On the whole, more flexibility for businesses and customers is a good thing.”
But Association of Convenience stores chief executive James Lowman criticised the move. He said: “By pressing on with this unpopular and unnecessary measure, the Government has turned its back on thousands of independent retailers, many of which will now be under threat of becoming unprofitable if changes to Sunday trading laws are made in their area.
“The consultation process for these reforms have been shambolic and opaque, consulting large retailers whilst ignoring the valid concerns of those hardest hit.
“The current Sunday trading rules are a popular compromise that provide a small but important advantage for small shops.
“We will continue to fight this complicated and harmful plan, and will campaign throughout the year to ensure that our existing Sunday trading rules are retained.”
“The truth is that opening shops for longer increases overheads for the same amount through the tills. That would harm productivity and could cost jobs.”
John Hannett, Usdaw
John Hannett, general secretary of shop workers union Usdaw added the proposals to devolve trading hours would “create chaos” as retailers “operate under different regulatory regimes” in different geographical areas.
Hannett added: “There are a few retailers who peddle the myth that if you open shops for longer, customers will have more money to spend. The truth is that opening shops for longer increases overheads for the same amount through the tills. That would harm productivity and could cost jobs, as retailers try to recover their losses.
“The potential damage to profitability and the chaos of different regulatory regimes across the country gives retailers yet another headache in an already difficult trading environment. The Government would be wise to pull back from this unpopular and unworkable devolution of trading hours.”