Sunday trading hours: Why the campaign against changes to the law by industry groups and Tory MPs is utterly bonkers

 
Emma Sinclair
2012 Sydney Royal Easter Show
Britain's Sunday trading laws are out-dated (Source: Getty)

I am confused, bemused and somewhat irritated by the constant threats from MPs, trading bodies and groups around the country to derail the government’s plans to relax the Sunday trading laws. Creating barriers to trade is out-dated and puts the UK at risk.

More than 20 Tory Ministers and MPs have threatened to block the plans before this week’s Commons vote. Add to that the government are facing legal action from the Keep Sunday Special group who 'definitively reject' any changes which would allow councils to approve longer Sunday shop trading hours in the UK.

The group say their motives are rooted in having time for family, friends and community, to rest and to enjoy themselves. That they believe in working hard, living life to the full and keeping just one day a week ‘a bit special’.

I get it. I also like to spend time with friends and family on a Sunday. I also quite like to go to the gym. Or drive out of London for some country air. Or catch up on emails. That’s the thing about my Sunday: I can choose how I spend it.

Objectors maintain that local businesses need to be given a fair chance to survive and thrive and thus hours should not be extended. Bizarre. As things stand, stores in England and Wales over 280m sq are allowed to open for six continuous hours between 10am and 6pm whilst small stores under 280m sq (roughly the size of a doubles tennis court) have no restrictions.

Retailers complain that they can't compete with e-commerce. Shoppers now expect to buy what they want, when they want it: The internet presents no barriers, no obstacles and no friction points – so in relaxing the law, struggling high streets and stores have the option to make it easier for customers to shop. This is essential for the retail economy to flourish.

Objectors want to protect workers’ rights not to work on Sundays too; equally out-dated to my mind and shows just how out of touch some people are. Today’s workforce is flexible. What about people who want to work Sundays, people with weekday jobs wishing to supplement their income or students in full or part time education?

Let’s not forget tourism either. According to Visit Britain, some 36m tourists spent approximately £22bn in 2015 of which short visits accounted for 40 per cent. Overseas visitors here on weekends represent a vast pool of customers who, whilst treading the streets of the UK, have cash to spend.

What left me even more dumbfounded is that James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, is in support of Keep Sunday Special. He says that “longer opening hours will serve only to benefit out of town stores, whilst hurting high streets, Post Offices and small shops – resulting in a net loss of jobs to the economy.” I spoke to him. They fully support the threatened legal action. I’m baffled.

To my mind this is not dissimilar to when London’s black cabs complain about Uber. Cabbies maintain that Uber drivers offer a sub par service, have no training, don’t know the London streets and are stealing their business …. yet most cabs still don't accept credit card payments. Insanity!

Uber is frictionless and a transport company fit for purpose in the 21st century. Burying your head in the sand and hiding from change isn’t a strategy for success or indeed to save a struggling The way we shop has changed. Our ‘nation of shopkeepers’ substantially contribute to Britain’s economy so let’s ensure that tradition is not lost and bring Sunday trading into the 21st century.

As far as I am concerned, existing Sunday trading laws are out-dated and need changing. Period.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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