Business development · 9 March 2016

Devolved Sunday trading laws could boost economy by £1.5bn

Sunday trading laws
The chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores is worried small shops could lose out to larger ones

Giving local authorities the powers to extend Sunday trading times could provide £1.5bn of economic benefit to the UK economy over the course of a decade, according to new figures released by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS).

The calculations are based on the fact that the owners of large firms – who are currently prevented from opening their stores for more than six hours on Sunday – could better utilise investments by putting them to use over a longer period of time.

MPs are due to vote on the issue on 9 March. Communities minister Brandon Lewis said: “Current Sunday trading rules are badly out of date and haven’t kept up with how we live our lives.

“This report shows how handing Sunday trading decision-making back to local people has clear benefits – both for shoppers, giving them the flexibility to shop when and where they want, and for businesses, boosting their potential for increased sales.”

Business minister Anna Soubry added: “It should be up to councils to decide what is right for their communities. They know their businesses large and small and their residents.”

The new impact assessment on the proposals highlights the disadvantage that micro firms with small numbers of staff but large premises – like garden centres – currently face due to a policy based on store size rather than business size, and suggests that such firms could benefit from the policy change.

However, James Lowman, the chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) slammed the report and highlighted the harm that the changes could cause to shops which currently benefit from an exemption from restrictions.

“This so-called impact assessment does nothing more than reiterate the government’s shoddy decade-old evidence for change, whilst continuing to ignore the concerns of shop workers, retailers and consumers,” he said.

“The short period of time that small stores are open while large stores are shut is a crucial advantage for convenience stores, most of which are owned by small businesses.  Liberalising Sunday trading hours would make some small stores unviable,” Lowman added.

If you’re after small retail business inspiration, have a look at this interview with the owners of family-run farm food shop Macknade Fine Foods.

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Hannah Wilkinson is a reporter for Business Advice. She studied economics and management at Oxford University and prior to joining Business Advice wrote for Kensington and Chelsea Today about business and economics – as well as running a tutoring company.