Fears are growing in the independent trade that a relaxation of Sunday trading laws during this summer’s Olympics could be a back-door route to a permanent liberalisation of the regulations first introduced 18 years ago, reports today’s Independent Retail News.
Chancellor George Osborne said on BBC TV’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday he would relax Sunday trading laws in England and Wales this summer to allow larger stores to open all day for eight weeks from 22 July.
He said it would be wrong if the country had a “closed for business sign on it” when visitors flocked to the UK for the London Olympics. Under current laws, stores of 3,000sq ft and more can only open for six hours on a Sunday.
The independent trade is now concerned the summer relaxation of the trading laws will become eventually become permanent. “That’s the big worry,” said James Lowman, chief executive at the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS).
A consumer poll commissioned by the ACS in 2010 showed three-quarters (76%) of people supported the existing laws and online comments last year as part of the government’s Red Tape Challenge overwhelmingly backed current trading hours.
The ACS, the National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) and the Usdaw shopworkers’ union are all incensed there has been no consultation with the public or the trade. The ACS claimed the move would cost c-stores about £1,500 a day in sales and put jobs at risk.
Trade groups are now lobbying MPs to oppose emergency legislation that has to be introduced by Easter. The ACS is urging retailers to write to their MPs to protest at the move and it has a pro forma letter that can be forwarded to politicians on the www.acs.org.uk website.
Lowman said: “The government is making the main beneficiaries out-of-town superstores nowhere near Olympic sites where there will be no additional visitors bringing any new spending to the area.”
NFRN president Kieran McDonnell said: “This looks as though the government is trying to take a ‘back-door’ route on a matter that requires careful thought and consultation about all its implications, not just an expedient action on behalf of the commercial interests of the major multiples.”