Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe has hit out at Government plans to relax Sunday trading laws after claiming the proposed new laws are too complex.
The Government wants to hand powers to local authorities and elected mayors across England and Wales, which currently prevent large stores from trading for more than six hours on Sundays.
Councils would effectively be able to create ‘zones’ in their town or city, allowing only shops in certain parts of the region to benefit from longer trading hours.
But Coupe argued that the proposals, which were unveiled by Chancellor George Osborne in the summer Budget, contained “a lot of complexity” and were not something customers wanted. He added that retailers were divided over whether there should be a relaxation of the laws, but agreed the current trading laws were “not a sensible way of going about it”.
Speaking to The Guardian, Coupe said the proposed laws “are open to interpretation and open to abuse. There’s a lot of complexity in the way it’s being framed”.
He called the current rules “a happy British compromise” and added: “There’s no customer demand for it, or colleague demand for it as far as we are concerned. The current rules work.”
Under current legislation within the 1994 Sunday Trading Act, stores over 3,000 sq ft are only allowed to open for six hours on Sundays.
But when it launched a consultation on proposed changes to the legislation back in August, the Government said the current system was “damaging to bricks-and-mortar stores and frustrating for customers.”
The consultation was closed last month and feedback from retailers is being analysed. Asda boss Andy Clarke and Marks & Spencer chief executive Marc Bolland are among the retailers who have welcomed a relaxation of the laws.
But Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said: “We think the current laws are a good compromise that work by balancing the needs of the small and large shopkeeper. They give us an advantage on Sunday evenings, cater to the needs of shop workers and are popular with consumers.
“There is no evidence that relaxation would increase overall sales. Sales would spread from small to large stores and over more hours.”