The most recent Sunday trading laws have been in force for over 20 years and a group of MPs are crying out for the modernisation of these trading hours. Currently businesses are allowed to choose 6 hours of trading time within an 8 hour window of 10am to 6pm on Sundays. The reason for the MPs to hold this as such a pressing issue is the battle that high street retailers are having with their online counterparts.
Sunday trading rules came in for the obvious religious reasons, this also accounted for the Jewish Sabbath as they could declare their business to the local council and then be able to be open longer on Sundays but would have to be closed on Saturday. Previous attempts to make a change to the Sunday trading hours have been strongly opposed, even recently David Cameron suffered threats from his own party members against such a change.
However now it seems enough change has occurred with the shift in dominance towards online retailers and the sights of boarded up high streets staining the image of our beautiful towns and cities. A letter published by the Sunday Telegraph and backed by a cross party group of MPs has bought this news upon us, they are looking to attach this to the current Enterprise Bill which is going through the commons at the moment. The MPs are arguing that changing the rules could increase employment by 9% as well as generating a massive £1.4 billion for the economy.
The Enterprise Bill will contain a couple of advantages for small businesses, for example it will introduce a Small Business Commissioner to support and protect the interests of small businesses to help them thrive and grow. It will also bring changes to the way the term ‘Apprenticeship’ is used and introduce a legal obligation for insurers to pay claims within a reasonable timeframe. For more on the Enterprise bill click here.
Clearly the online retailers have no opening or closing times; you can shop until you can click no more. Online retailers like Amazon have been draining small businesses for years now and one of the barriers they face is trading time. Online shopping enables human impulse buying as it is readily available 24/7. However with the potential of longer hours on a Sunday it has the draw backs that are to be expected. The staff suffer because they miss out on ‘family time’ and with the religious view that Sunday should be a day of rest.
The key idea here is that it will be left up to the individual councils to negotiate with local businesses and decide what is best for them. This would appear to be a great delegation by the government to gift this power to the local councils, however it could cause havoc to ‘Joe Public’ as opening hours across the country would be completely different offering no consistency.
This could all be an argument for nothing as they need to get the bill through both the commons and the House of Lords before any of this can be put into action. Have your say on this matter in the comments section below.