Mark Allatt, co-founder and director of Open Sundays, comments on the pressing need for Sunday trading law liberalisation…
England and Wales are overdue a reform for Sunday trading laws.
The laws put in place to restrict Sunday trading hours are archaic and based on an outdated view of society today.
One of the reasons behind the compromise which is the Sunday Trading Act 1994 was to help limit the competition that convenience stores faced from larger supermarkets on Sundays.
However, with major supermarket chains now opening their own convenience stores – which are exempt from the laws and continue to dominate the sector – this restriction is no longer appropriate.
This is one of the many reasons that Philip Davies MP recently tabled five amendments to the Deregulation Bill, aimed at relaxing or scrapping current Sunday trading laws.
The fact is that British people do want more opportunity to shop on Sundays – a national survey by ComRes for Open Sundays showed that, when asked to what extent the British people would support or oppose a permanent liberalisation of Sunday trading hours, 64 per cent of respondents were in favour of full liberalisation.
Liberalisation would greatly benefit computer shops and repairs centres too, as they are both impacted by Sunday trading laws.
Computer shops face fierce competition from online computer retailers and, therefore, if someone needs a computer part on a Sunday and the stores are closed they will simply go online to order the part instead.
If stores are unable to open at the times their customers wish to shop, consumers will be more inclined to use online retailers as a go-to for their needs, meaning that the computer stores will gradually lose business.
With online retailers able to sell their wares 24/7 with no restrictions, the High Street will have more competition than ever – and the convenience of online shopping creates a loss for High Street stores.
In fact, research from SAS and Verdict shows that almost 12 per cent of retail spend last year was spent online, with online sales up 18 per cent year on year in February 2014.
Some estimates suggest 12,000 shops face closure on the High Street this year. The Centre for Retail Research predicts that by 2018, an estimated 62,000 shops will close, losing 318,000 jobs in the process – something reformed Sunday trading laws could help to combat.
It's clear that a reform of the laws would be great news for the UK economy.
Full liberalisation would be hugely beneficial to the High Street, with larger stores drawing in more shoppers and keeping them there, shopping in the smaller stores long into the evening, as well as supplying prospective patrons to nearby restaurants and other leisure facilities – and bringing more life overall to the UK’s town centres.