Supermarkets hold talks with government on Sunday trading

RETAILERS have been holding discussions with the government and trade bodies over the permanent relaxation of Sunday trading rules, it was revealed yesterday.

Current rules limit large shops to six hours of trading between 10am and 6pm on a Sunday. This has been temporarily relaxed during the Olympics and it is thought communities secretary Eric Pickles is keen to make the change permanent.

But leading supermarkets are split on the proposal, with Asda strongly in favour of removing all restrictions and others adopting a more cautious approach.

“Customers are sometimes left scratching their heads as to why we have to chuck them out at 4pm on a Sunday,” said an Asda spokesman. “Our customers like the convenience of us being open longer as it means they can shop when it suits them, not when it suits us.”

But Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King said the current situation was “a great British compromise”.

“Maintaining Sunday’s special status has great merit for our customers and our colleagues, and relaxing Sunday trading laws is certainly not a magic answer to economic regeneration,” he said in a letter to the Sunday Telegraph.

A spokesman for Morrisons told City A.M. that it would like to open for “one or two extra hours” in order to “spread demand better across the day”.

“Some stores are open 10am-4pm, some 11pm-5pm, some 12pm-6pm and it’s confusing for the customer,” the spokesman added.

Tesco, the fourth major supermarket, is understood to be monitoring feedback from customers.

Church leaders and unions are opposed to change, claiming it would damage family life while doing little to boost the economy.