In today’s emergency Budget, Chancellor George Osborne confirmed the government’s plans to press ahead with the first changes to Sunday trading hours in over 20 years.
The change forms part of the Enterprise Bill.
Retailers with physical stores of more than 3,000 sq ft are now freed from laws which prevent them from trading more than six hours on a Sunday. Independent stores and online shops were always free from those laws, however, some feel that smaller retailers could now struggle as the larger stores can enter the playing field.
By devolving power to councils and elected mayor, each local authority can decide whether it would be economically beneficial to lift the current restrictions on supermarkets Sunday trading hours.
Supermarkets could now remain open for longer than the previously capped six hours on a Sunday.
Small store fears:
Once shops closed early on a Sunday, people were only left with the option of shopping at their local convenience stores which can be pricier than their larger retail counterparts – the price of convenience.
Not only do these smaller retailers stand to lose out to the competition as their customers continue to shop for cheaper prices, this could see the market shift back away from smaller retailers who in recent years have preferred to shop more locally at their convenience.
Phil Mullis, Head of Retail and Wholesale at top-20 accountancy firm, Wilkins Kennedy, said: “Small scale shops are leading growth on the high street, experiencing an 8.1% rise in sales since 2013, compared to a 2.6% rise from larger retail businesses as people’s shopping habits change.”
The trading hours could create a U-turn in shopper behaviour as consumers choose to shop for longer at the larger stores to benefit from lower prices over the independent convenience stores.”
The Association of Convenience Stores has heavily criticised plans introduced in the emergency Budget to allow local authorities to decide whether to remove Sunday Trading rules.
James Lowman, CEO of The Association of Convenience Stores thinks that the liberalisation of Sunday trading hours could see smaller shops struggle with the competition. He commented: “We are extremely disappointed that this Government has failed to keep its promise to thousands of independent retailers on Sunday Trading.”
At the end of April this year, the Prime Minister’s office wrote to campaign group Keep Sunday Special, advising them that “we have no current plans to relax the Sunday Trading laws”
The Prime Minister’s office also said that “we 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.”
The Association of Convenience Stores stated that: “ACS will fight this unnecessary, complicated and harmful plan and will campaign throughout the year to ensure that our existing Sunday Trading rules are retained.”
Supermarket trading potential:
Treasury appointed research conducted by the New West End Company suggested that two extra hours of Sunday trading could create nearly 3,000 jobs in the capital.
It said such a move would also generate more than £200m a year in additional sales in London.
Fro September the London Underground will begin to operate some 24 hour services resulting in London becoming a 24 hour city. These changes to Sunday trading hours therefore means that brick-and-mortar retailers will be on a level playing field with ecommerce players.
The Chancellor also said that "the rise of online shopping, which people can do round the clock, also means more retailers want to be able to compete by opening for longer at the weekend,” he added.
High Street shops have been coming under growing pressure from online retailers, which now account for 11% of retail sales overall - rising to 17% in the month before Christmas of last year.
David Atkins, CEO of Hammerson plc said in a statement that he welcomes “the Chancellor’s announcement today setting out plans to extend Sunday trading hours, which will boost the economy and create thousands of new jobs.
With nearly 2,000 stores across Hammerson’s regional portfolio of UK shopping centres and retail parks, we believe that the relaxation of opening hours will offer retailers more flexibility and give consumers greater power to choose where and when they shop.
The reforms will also bring Britain into line with other international retail markets and address the imbalance between physical and online retailing.”