The Chancellor George Osborne has announced plans to extend Sunday trading hours, giving businesses greater flexibility to choose their opening hours on the weekend.
Elected mayors and councils now have powers to relax local laws if they think it will boost productivity and spending.
Current laws allow small shops to open all day, but restrict those over 280sqm to six hours. Although there has been some trepidation about the impact this will have on small businesses, the Treasury argues an extra two hours of trading on Sundays could create nearly 3,000 jobs in the capital. Others suggest longer hours could help bricks-and-mortar stores compete with digital shopping channels.
Nik Wheeler, planning associate director at property consultancy firm GL Hearn, comments: “This is a positive relaxation of dated regulations. Greater flexibility for larger stores will raise extra income for retailers, create more jobs and provide greater convenience for those who are unable to shop during weekdays.
“Relaxed Sunday trading laws were introduced successfully during the London Olympics in 2012 and will help bricks-and-mortar stores to compete better with online retailers. However, in order to avoid confusion for people shopping across council boundaries, all local authorities should take up the option of extended hours and coordinate these regionally.”
In contrast, Phil Mullis, head of retail and wholesale at top 20 accountancy firm Wilkins Kennedy, argues that this news could spell trouble for independents as their opening hours advantage is stripped away.
He explains: “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 truth is, consumers can only consume so much – will we spend more because the stores are open for longer? It’s unlikely, but the chances are the independent stores will stand to lose out in the longer term.”
The decision to increase trading hours was inspired by the London Olympic Games in 2012, where shops were temporarily allowed to stay open to capitalise on increased tourism.
The Chancellor says decisions on whether stores should remain open for longer should be based on the opinions of regional leaders and retailers – suggesting there could be variations from area to area.