Should Sunday trading hours be extended in supermarkets for the Christmas period?

Dalton Philips

The seven trading days before Christmas day are the busiest days of the year for grocery shopping. This period puts a huge strain on staff across our business, but particularly those in stores, logistics, and in manufacturing. Our analysis shows that, in the seven days prior to our early closing on Christmas Eve, 23 December sees the largest footfall of customers and transactions at the checkout – it is effectively our busiest trading day. In recent years, there has been a trend among shoppers to delay their final shop for Christmas to the last moment. This year, 23 December falls on a Sunday and current legislation requires all of our stores to close early. We would welcome a relaxation of Sunday trading hours for our grocery stores in the UK – over 280m square metres of shopping space – during the Christmas period.

Dalton Philips is chief executive of Morrisons.

James Lowman

UK convenience stores employ in excess of 372,000 people and are the social glue of many communities. They get a crucial, life-saving advantage from the restrictions of Sunday trading hours. When they were relaxed during the Olympics, local shops lost sales as shoppers migrated to larger supermarkets. Proponents of longer trading hours argue that it gives consumers greater choice. Our fear is that, without the current restrictions, many local shops would shut down and this may actually end up reducing customer choice. Relaxing trading hours in the run up to Christmas may seem like a small concession, but we fear that it may be the precursor to a permanent relaxation. Superstores can already open 24 hours a day, six days a week, and for six hours on a Sunday. That seems like a fair compromise.

James Lowman is chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores.