Extending Sunday trading will not add much to retailers’ bottom lines and even worse it will disrupt employees’ family lives.

Whenever the subject of extending Sunday trading comes up I tend to stop being a recruiter and suddenly become a retailer again.

I reflect on how I would feel if I was still running a shop for HMV.

Some high street retailers argue that the extension will enable them to compete with online retailers on an even footing. I struggle with this because bricks-and-mortar retailers should have a decent website of their own.

The Government has suggested that extended trading hours will add an additional £1.4bn to the economy and create jobs. Of course what hasn’t been widely publicised is that this figure originates from a report published in 2006.

I’m not sure if you can remember that far back but I suspect your shopping habits have changed, back in the ‘olden’ days we didn’t shop online very much, in fact we were still walking around with analogue phones in our pockets and we were still doing big weekly shops at the supermarket.

New jobs

I am also highly dubious about the job creation element.

When I worked for HMV, Sunday was a particularly productive working day. The staff on the tills and shopfloor were busy throughout their shifts because there was a constant stream of customers and we had a decent amount of time either side of trade to put the shop back together ready for a new working week.

“I am not sure that we consumers will rush out to spend more because shops open at 9am”

Jeremy Ellerd-Styles, AdMore recruitment

If trading is extended from the standard 11am to 5pm to 9am to 6pm that means most retail management teams will be in from 8am to 7pm, possibly 8pm.

Retail managers are already stretched, and shops run on half the headcount they would have historically.  

Shops are not going to take a huge amount more money – I am not sure that we consumers will rush out to spend more because shops open at 9am rather than 11am on a Sunday.

And as any store manager will tell you this means there will be no miraculous increase in staffing hours – meaning the same headcount stretched over a longer trading period.

Understanding the numbers

For clarity, let’s look at those big numbers being used to support the extension.

£1.4bn extra for the economy right? Well, there are 278,630 shops in the UK so that means shops will see an average annual sales uplift of about £5,024 or £97 per week. Even if half those shops will not be eligible for the new Sunday hours the sales increase will still be small among the others.

With margins as they are in retail I can’t see any profit being redistributed back to staffing, can you?

“The second biggest strain on family life is working long hours/lack of work-life balance”

Jeremy Ellerd-Styles, AdMore recruitment

But if I’m being honest my primary objection is a values-based one.

The vast majority of social studies indicate that individual and societal wellbeing is intrinsically linked to time spent with one’s family. The ONS has this paper on its site www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/wellbeing in which it found that the second biggest strain on family life is working long hours/lack of work-life balance.

If I was still a retail store manager and Sunday trading laws were extended I would not see my kids from Monday to Saturday, I would leave before they were awake and get home just after bed time. Add in extended Sunday trading laws and this would be even worse. I fundamentally believe this is wrong.

Over the past 40 years sociologists and psychologists have cited the utopian Scandinavian model as one to strive for in order to improve quality of life. Yet when faced with an opportunity to preserve some of our core values we are all too quick to point out the economic benefits (however fragile they obviously are).

I am as capitalist as the next man but I value employee’s family lives over and above a few extra quid for the economy. Do you?

  • Jeremy Ellerd-Styles is senior partner retail and consumer at AdMore Recruitment