More than twenty years after Sunday trading hours were introduced to give shopkeepers some time off on the weekend, the Government is looking to scrap restrictions.
A consultation that opened on Wednesday proposes that local authorities and elected mayors should have greater control over Sunday trading rules so that stores can stay open all weekend.
Retail experts have decried the idea, claiming it could lead to inconsistencies across the UK and put some smaller stores out of business.
"The devolution proposal, if implemented, will lead to unevenness and frustration in all quarters and may not, in fact, have national retailers rushing to avail themselves of the new freedoms. We shall see," said David Young, partner in the Consumer Sector at Eversheds.
Some believe changes would confuse consumers. "The Government’s much-vaunted plans to liberalise Sunday trading don’t sound quite so clear-cut anymore, as if some local councils allow a change and others don’t then consumers could get very confused," said Nick Bubb, retail analyst.
But the Government believes the changes are necessary to improve high street stores' chances of competing with 24-hour online shopping culture.
Data from Visa shows that face-to-face spending on Sundays has increased 35 per cent since 2011. There is a much bigger split in growth rates between face-to-face spending and online spending on Sundays than on any other day.
"Extended opening hours on a Sunday could allow retailers to tap into consumer demand to shop, as well as use services such as click and collect, across the weekend," said Kevin Jenkins, UK & Ireland managing director Visa Europe.
That will be little consolation to corner store owners, according to the Association for Convenience Stores. James Lowman, chief executive of the ACS, said that smaller stores will suffer as consumers make use of longer trading hours at bigger stores, which could put some shops out of business.
“By pressing on with this unpopular and unnecessary measure, the Government has turned its back on thousands of independent retailers, many of which will now be under threat of becoming unprofitable if changes to Sunday trading laws are made in their area,” Lowman said.Reuse content