Outdated trading regulations are holding retail back, we need to let large stores open on Sunday to give our high street a fighting chance.

Outdated trading regulations are holding retail back, we need to let large stores open on Sunday to give our high street a fighting chance.

There’s big news in a town near where I live. Marks & Spencer is about to open a new store there and it’s made the front page of the local paper. Marc Bolland will be pleased.

By all accounts he won’t be the only one either. Seemingly every local retailer canvassed on the subject thought the new M&S will bring them more customers too.

Such is the excitement that many local businesses are now considering opening on a Sunday. Except there won’t be much point opening all day because the new M&S will only be allowed to open for six hours. So after you’ve been to church and had a nice long Sunday lunch, you may decide not to bother going shopping, as there will only be a snatched hour or so – and we all hate that feeling of shopping just as everyone’s cashing up.

If only M&S could open for longer, you might make a day of it and stop for some supper in one the town’s restaurants afterwards.

So remind me, why do we have restricted Sunday shopping hours on our high street?

Surveys have shown that the vast majority of just about every stakeholder group concerned – customers, shop workers, suppliers and retailers both large and small – would like our stores to stay open for longer on Sundays.

It used to be argued that if we gave shops over 3,000 sq ft unrestricted Sunday trading hours, then it would harm the small, independent retailer. But that law was enacted before internet shopping changed everything.

Today, the lesser-spotted independent retailer is disproportionately disadvantaged by the fact that when they’re shut their customers shop online with retailers such as M&S, so the argument has tipped.

To support the local trader, we need to let all the large high street stores open on Sunday, so that we give our brick-built high street a fighting chance against the click-based one that’s the bigger threat to their livelihood.

British conservatism and those that hanker for half-day Wednesdays will challenge this change and an unsuspecting church leader will be collared for a sound bite on the subject and unfairly thrust to the front of the resistance movement.

However, faith and shopping in today’s society, like many of our passions, are practised when and where the individual wants – and technology and the internet are facilitating that. Facebook, Streetlife and even Tinder are bringing like-minded people together and building today’s communities.

All-day Sunday shopping won’t change that and lest we forget, holy days aren’t just Sundays either.

Of course the economic arguments for longer Sunday hours are overwhelming. According to Government forecasts, the HS2 rail project that will be delivered in 2026, in addition to the obvious transport benefits, will bring us £53bn of broader economic benefit at a cost north of £50bn. Fully liberalising Sunday opening now will add about £10bn to our economy before the first fast train leaves London – and at virtually no cost at all.