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Eversheds comment: UK government begins Consultation on Extending Sunday Trading Hours

  • United Kingdom

    05-08-2015

    The UK government is today opening a consultation on proposals to devolve power on Sunday trading rules to local areas, to allow them to choose whether large shops should open for longer on Sundays. David Young, partner in the Consumer Sector at Eversheds comments:

    “Until 1994, under legislation passed not long after the end of the Second World War, Sunday was a day of rest in the UK. Shops, with very limited exemptions, were closed. The growth of out-of-town superstores and garden centres in the 1980s led to more and more pressure for change from cash and credit-rich consumers, characterised by civil disobedience of sorts, when it was even possible to buy garden plants (exempt products) for a grossly-inflated price because they came with a free sofa (restricted goods).

    “The Sunday trading Act 1994 introduced relaxations that still exist today, whereby large stores (trading area of 280sqm or more) may open on Sundays, but for a maximum of 6 hours between 10am and 6pm. Christmas Day and Easter Sunday are still restricted. The rules were relaxed in London during the 2012 Olympics but, despite occasional chatter, those relaxations have not been made more permanent.

    “This consultation is perhaps a reflection in particular of the growth of online retail (unrestricted 24/7/365 shopping if you want that), and designed to level the playing field for traditional retailers, and more than anything to drive economic growth. It will be unpopular amongst some lobby groups and no doubt with shopworkers’ trade unions. 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.”

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