William Eichler 12 October 2015

Devolution of Sunday trading could 'undermine' high street warns retailers

Devolution of Sunday trading could undermine high street warns retailers image

A majority of local authority chief executives would include retail parks, supermarkets and shopping centres in any relaxation of Sunday trading rules, a survey carried out by the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) reveals.

The survey showed that 52% of local authority chief executives would include out of town retail parks and supermarkets, as well as large shopping centres as their first or second preference for extending opening hours on a Sunday if the regulations were to pass.

This would mean, argues the ACS, that devolution of Sunday trading rules will have a substantial impact on jobs and the economy because high street shops wouldn’t be able to compete with the large retailers.

The government’s plan to liberalise Sunday trading laws, first introduced in a consultation document on 5 August this year, is aimed at boosting the local economy by £1.4bn a year.

High streets, the Government claims, would then be able to compete more effectively with online businesses and smaller retailers, while also offering consumers more choice about when to shop locally.

But, in evidence submitted to the Government last month, the ACS cited research by Oxford Economics that shows if implemented by councils across England and Wales, extended Sunday trading hours would cost small shops in excess of £870m whilst generating no extra revenue for the economy overall, leading to a net loss of 3,270 jobs across the retail industry.

ACS chief executive, James Lowman, said: ‘Let’s be absolutely clear, these devolution plans will lead to widespread 24/7 opening, with out of town retail parks the big winners, and small high street shops the losers.’

In a further blow to the government’s plan, which will be debated in parliament this week, the Social Market Foundation has produced a report that purports to show that a change in Sunday trading regulations doesn’t pass the Prime Minister’s ‘family test’, which he launched in 2014 for all new laws going through Parliament.

Emran Mian, director of the Social Market Foundation, said: ‘The risks to family life posed by the Government’s proposed changes to Sunday trading regulations are significant. Retail is already a sector where staff are working long and atypical hours, and working for longer on Sundays will hurt families by stopping them from spending time together.’

‘While the family test was introduced with a lot of fanfare, it looks like the Government will fail to implement the test on the first big issue where it is relevant,’ he added.

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