The government is pressing ahead with plans to give local councils power to relax Sunday trading laws. But will the move keep the tills ringing?
Yes, says Peter Veash, CEO and founder of The BIO Agency
Relaxing Sunday trading laws is surely a good thing, considering the struggle high street shops continue to face in competing with online retailers such as Amazon. Today, consumers demand a level of convenience that was the stuff of dreams when these archaic laws were drawn up – if they feel like shopping at 2am they can, and the same applies on a Sunday.
An advantage of physical stores is the experience – no dotcom shop can come close to capturing the joy of stepping through a door and browsing the aisles; taking in the sights and smells and having that human interaction with a friendly shop assistant. Not all stores live up to this fantasy, but it’s the unique selling point they should all be striving for.
While such shops will continue to labour when it comes to matching the cut-price deals offered online, possibly their strongest hand will be the ability to provide goods on a Sunday. Yes, shoppers can browse the web at any time, but the number of online retailers offering Sunday deliveries is small. However, the popularity of one-day delivery options emphasises consumers’ desire to get what they want, when they want it – so this advantage for high street retailers won’t last forever. They need to make the most of it while they still can.
No, says Tracy Ewen, managing director of IGF Invoice Finance
The expected changes to Sunday trading laws are likely to have an immediate and challenging impact on small retailers. The current restrictions on Sunday trading allow independent and smaller shops to enjoy longer retailing hours, which gives these stores a natural advantage over their larger competitors.
Should these rules be relaxed, this important advantage will be lost. As a result, smaller retailers may need to expand their offering or refresh their store layout to remain competitive.
Unfortunately, this activity will have an initial cost that many can ill afford, potentially putting a serious strain on their finances. As a result, shop closures may become more frequent and SMEs, the valuable lifeblood of the UK economy, could suffer a significant hit.
Any harm caused will extend to consumers too. The existing Sunday trading rules redirect footfall away from large retailers and chain stores encouraging customers to take advantage of smaller local shops instead. The drive from consumers to support independent retailers is a clear sign that community and local business endorsement is extremely valuable. However, if these small businesses end up being crushed by their bigger rivals, shoppers may find that they no longer have the choice.