How Might a Change in Sunday Trading Laws Affect the High Street?

Ryan Willis

From Autumn of this year, the Government will potentially relax Sunday trading laws for retail stores in excess of 3000 sq ft in size and over. Much debate has risen on the social implications of such a move and whether it is a good thing or not. However, the question of its effect on the High Street has remained mostly untouched.

The first thing to make clear is that this significant change will only apply retail stores in excess of 3000 sq ft in size and over, which basically means Tesco, ASDA and the other large supermarket chains, excluding the vast majority of the high street. However, the government has referred to ‘Tourism Trade’ as one of the key demographics that potential devolution could have a profound effect upon.

Is ‘Tourism Trade’ a Factor?

The logic behind the suggestion likely refers to large London outlets, such as Harrods and Selfridges, which are in themselves a large part of the London tourism. By opening for longer on Sundays, these stores will be looking to reap greater sales revenue from those passing by as part of the holiday, which does hold some merit as a strategy. However, the suggestion that this will help the high street as a whole does seem rather more debatable. Whilst Harrods and Selfridges may well benefit from relaxed laws, it will have no benefit to a local newsagent from a footfall point of view.

Will This Help Combat Internet Sales?

Some have suggested that relaxed Sunday trading laws will help to combat internet sales, with more availability on the high street. However, this is a debatable suggestion, and we would be sceptical about the suggestion that longer hours on Sunday will have any profound effect on combatting internet sales.

Much of the customer motive surrounding internet sales is based around convenience. Tech companies are consistently producing applications and devices that make it easier for shoppers to purchase online without leaving their chair. Longer opening hours do not directly combat this lifestyle choice, which will make it unlikely to have a profound effect.

Are Current Laws Out of Date?

One of the main arguments in favour of relaxed Sunday opening hours is that the current laws are somewhat out of date. The BBC recently reported on a letter written to the Sunday Telegraph written by a group of 200 MPs and council leaders, which backed relaxed Sunday trading laws. The letter stated that the world had changed ‘a great deal’ since Sunday trading laws were last updated in 1994, “yet whilst times and attitudes have changed, Sunday Trading laws have stayed the same. Our high streets and physical retailers have been left trying to compete with 24/7 online shopping, a task which is made harder by a shortened trading day at the weekend, just when many families might hope to go shopping together.”

Of course, much of the debate comes back to the social issue of longer opening times on a Sunday. Sunday has always been recognised as the ‘day of rest’. A more old-fashioned view is that Sundays are best spent with family and friends, or simply taking the opportunity to rest from the working week. The concept of relaxed laws does rather fly in the face of this perception, which will no doubt lead to some controversy.

In summary, relaxed Sunday trading laws will of course generate some increase in revenue

If you would like to discuss the change in Sunday Trading Laws any further, please do get in contact with Nabco today. You can call us on 01727 841828, or use our contact form.

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