Sunday trade lifts profits

The introduction of Sunday trading is increasing the pressure on town-centre shops, accelerating the drift towards out-of- town retail sites, according to a survey to be published today.

The survey by Healey & Baker, the property consultants, says that shops which open on Sundays are seeing higher profits than nine months ago, before the change in the law to legalise seven-day trading. The increaseis, however, at the expense of shops that are not opening and not the result of extra spending.

Sunday has become the second busiest day of the week for those shops which open, with average sales equivalent to a third of Saturday turnover. The shops that choose to open tend to be in the clothing, electrical and home furnishing sectors - all business sectors which attract family shopping.

The findings will rekindle fears that the explosion of out-of-town retailing is killing off high-street shops - and confirm the view that town centres are doing little to counter the threat posed by the large shopping arcades.

There has been a growing realisation that government policy during the 1980s stacked the odds against the maintenance of lively, thriving town centres.

Recent planning guidance from the Department of the Environment has made it clear that the Government is now in favour of using the planning process to encourage shoppers out of their cars and into vital, viable towns.

In Birmingham, Bristol and Leicester fewer than 2 per cent of shops open on Sundays. By contrast, 99 per cent of the shops at the Lakeside shopping centre in Thurrock, Essex, open - as do almost half of those on London's Oxford Street. In Central Manchester 58 per cent of shops are opening all weekend. Paul Orchard-Lisle, senior partner at Healey & Baker, said: "So far, Sunday trading has made no fundamental difference to retailing habits.

"However, we believe that local authorities, chambers of commerce, property owners and providers of services need to get together in the principal town centres to develop a coherent strategy."

The implications of Sunday trading on the property industry were still unclear, but the trend was to marginal increases in the values of supermarkets and retail warehouses. Rental values were increasing in purpose-built shopping centres, but being squeezed in conventional town centres.

The survey also showed that calls for further deregulation were likely, including a change in the legal status of garden centres, which were unable to open on Easter Day because of the new rules. A quarter of local authorities were in favour of a complete deregulation of Sunday opening.