Posted: 07/07/2015

Government’s proposed Sunday trading extension could damage indies


George Osborne
Chancellor George Osborne said the new rules would help retailers compete with online sales channels

Chancellor George Osborne has announced Government proposals to allow shops to trade all day on Sundays but one retail body has been quick to highlight the negative impact on independent retailers.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) said any extensions to opening times would strip smaller shops of an advantage over the multiples as the Chancellor prepared to outline plans for changing Sunday trading laws in this week’s Budget.

In the largest shake-up of Sunday trading laws in more than twenty years, Osborne proposes that responsibility for Sunday opening hours will to be devolved to either local authorities or mayors to set hours that stores can open on a Sunday.

Currently only shops smaller than 3,000 sq ft can open for more than six hours on a Sunday but the Chancellor argued new rules would allow retailers to compete with growing online sales. However he admitted it “wouldn’t be right for every area”.

James Lowman
ACS chief exec James Lowman said the proposed measures would make some small stores “unviable”

A formal Government consultation with stakeholders will be held before changes are included in the Enterprise Bill, which will be debated in the House of Commons in the autumn.

But the ACS, which represents independent retailers and small stores, argued the move will disadvantage smaller independent shops and is urging retailers to write to their MPs to oppose the change.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said the short period of time that small stores are open while large stores are shut provided smaller retailers with a” crucial advantage” and changes to the status quo would threaten the livelihoods of smaller store owners.

“Liberalising Sunday trading hours would make some small stores unviable,” he said. “In areas where large stores’ trading hours are extended, we will simply see the same amount of trade spread over more hours and shifting from small stores to large stores, as was the case when the laws were suspended for the 2012 London Olympics, when overall retail sales actually fell.”

According the ACS, the temporary relaxation saw sales decline by 0.4% year on year, with some smaller retailers reporting declines of up to 20%.

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