Sunday trading

The current Sunday trading laws have been in place for just over 20 years. But Sunday has proved a highly popular shopping day and the present law had its limitations for consumers.

Budget changes

Half way through the Budget Speech, the chancellor stated the following:

“And to give more power to counties and to our new mayors, we are going to give them the power to set the Sunday trading hours in their areas.” That’s all, but it is enough and it should mark the beginning of the end for the present Sunday trading laws.

Introduction of changes

Initially, no doubt some councils will abandon the present laws, while some will retain the present compromise. There is still a minority that argues that “there should be at least one day when one can’t shop”, or that “ it’s important to keep Sunday special”. What these objectors tend to overlook is that no-one is forced to shop on a Sunday, or any other day of the week.

Other objectors

There are other groups that may well object to further liberalisation as well.

Chief among these are the food retailers. Sainsbury’s and Tesco have made a substantial investment in stores of under 3,000 sq ft because below that threshold the Sunday trading laws don’t apply. So if the laws are liberalised, then it is quite possible that such outlets will no longer be fit for purpose.

Food retailing in a free Sunday trading environment

Food retailing is changing. There is a significant shift from superstores to convenience stores. At present “convenience store” means an outlet of under 3,000 sq ft. But there is no reason why that should be the best size. Convenience retailing in the future will comprise everything from food specialists of under 1,000 sq ft up to Aldi/Lidl-style retailers of around 10,000 sq ft. It is also significant that Asda has chosen to concentrate on 10,000 sq ft supermarkets rather than open sub-3,000 sq ft units.

So it is ironic that anyone who wants to campaign against further liberalisation on the grounds of wanting to protect small shops would actually be trying to protect the interests of Sainsbury’s and Tesco, whose success is one of the reasons why so many small grocers are under pressure.

Time to change the law

Food retailers aside, most other retailers would welcome a change and it would be particularly beneficial for Garden centres, DIY stores and furniture stores.

We lived with the present compromise for long enough. Consumers, especially those that work a Mon-Fri week, would clearly like to be able to shop all day Sunday and there is no good reason why they shouldn’t.

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