The Department for Business and the Department for Communities and Local Government have published a full consultation on plans to allow local authorities and metro mayors to increase the hours that larger shops can open on Sundays.
Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said: “By pressing on with this unpopular and unnecessary measure, the Government has turned its back on thousands of independent retailers, many of which will now be under threat of becoming unprofitable if changes to Sunday Trading laws are made in their area. The consultation process for these reforms has been shambolic and opaque, consulting large retailers while ignoring the valid concerns of those hardest hit. The Government has not confirmed how the proposals will be introduced in Parliament and whether the House of Lords will be given the chance to review the proposals.
“The current Sunday Trading rules are a popular compromise which provides a small but important advantage for small shops. We know from the Sunday Trading experiment during the Olympic Games that longer opening hours on a Sunday only results in trade being diverted from smaller stores to larger stores, with no overall benefit in sales to the UK economy. We will continue to fight this complicated and harmful plan, and will campaign throughout the year to ensure that our existing Sunday Trading rules are retained.”
Polling conducted by ComRes in February showed that 76% of the public are in favour of the current Sunday Trading regulations. Of those who want a change in the law, 60% want further restrictions on Sunday opening hours.
Changes to Sunday Trading rules have been considered a number of times over the last Parliament, including a temporary relaxation of the rules for the 2012 Olympic Games. In every case, Government gave reassurances that there were no plans to introduce a permanent liberalisation of Sunday Trading hours. Most recently, a letter sent on behalf of the Prime Minister stated that the Conservative party believe that “the current system provides a reasonable balance between those who wish to see more opportunity to shop in large stores on a Sunday, and those who would like to see further restrictions.”
Current rules allow stores in England and Wales over 3,000sq ft to open for a maximum of six hours between the hours of 10:00am and 6:00pm. Stores are also required to close on Easter Sunday and Christmas Day.
The consultation will run for six weeks, closing on 16th September. ACS will be submitting a full response in due course. The ACS is also urging members to contact their local MPs. For more information about the ACS lobbying activity, visit www.acs.org.uk/lobbying/