Campaign to change Sunday trading laws gets a boost

THE CAMPAIGN to liberalise Sunday trading laws has been given a boost by a new report which claims shoppers could save £1.4bn a year if the laws were changed.

Advisory firm Indepen found that extended Sunday trading would improve both the price and convenience of shopping at large stores and would attract extra customers to those stores over an extended period of time. It added that this would impact negatively on small stores that are primarily substitutes for large stores, and positively on small stores that are complements to large stores and benefit from additional footfall.

The Department of Trade and Industry will make a decision on its consultation into the 1994 Act in the summer; the current law limits stores over 3,000sq ft from trading for more than six hours between 10am and 6pm on normal Sundays, and from trading at all on Easter Sunday.

The Forum of Private Business is against liberalisation, as is shop-workers union Usdaw which claimed that the new report supported its view that extending Sunday shopping hours would not create any extra jobs. "Supporters of extended hours have peddled the myth that it will mean extra jobs but the report ?nally nails that idea as misleading and not based in reality," said Usdaw general secretary John Hannett.

"Stores will simply shift staff from weekday shifts to weekend working, but those workers will have their weekends ruined as they come under extra pressure to turn in and staff the stores."

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has just submitted its response to the government consultation and Clive Davenport, national trade and industry chairman, said it was important that the balance was righted slightly by favouring smaller shops. Said Davenport: "Further relaxing of Sunday trading hours for larger stores will inevitably increase still further the pressure on small shops. It's time for the government to give small shops a break and leave Sunday trading laws as they stand."

However, many in the retail industry are con?dent the government will bow to pressure and fully liberalise Sunday trading because Asda, B&Q and other major groups have called for longer trading hours, claiming that smaller stores are given a competitive advantage because they are exempt from the restrictions on Sunday trading.