In recent years, larger retailers have begun to press the government to relax Sunday trading laws which restrict the hours they can open. However, a study by retail ecommerce firm Shopatron has revealed that not all of the country’s leading retailers would support a change in legislation.
Although both Asda and Morrisons have thrown their support behind groups calling for the abolition of Sunday trading hours, market leaders such as Tesco, John Lewis and Sainsbury’s have expressed their support for the current rules.
Small retailers, for the most part, have historically supported the status quo as this allows them to gain the upper hand against larger competitors, yet there are signs that the change in consumer preferences has caused this tide to turn.
Managing director of Shopatron’s European division, John Pincott, explains that the rise in online shopping and initiatives such as home delivery and click and collect have played a huge role in reigniting the Sunday trading laws debate.
He says; “The integration of online shopping into consumers’ daily routines lifted the restrictions on shopping within certain limited hours.
“As a result, physical stores are now feeling the pressure to match the offering.
“All businesses have been impacted by 24 hour access to goods online and extending opening hours will help to boost sales for many retailers – however, for the majority of retailers, this simply isn’t a viable commercial option.”
Should Sunday trading laws be relaxed, many retailers currently unable to open for more than six hours on a Sunday will have the option to operate under normal weekday schedules, yet this brings with it a new set of problems.
Operating costs, for example, would certainly climb, as would staffing costs, meaning that many retailers would have to judge whether the additional consumer spend would cover these increased outgoings.
The fact that Tesco, Sainsbury’s and John Lewis have spoken out against changing the current system is very interesting as all have managed to establish strong online presences – tellingly, deliveries of groceries and non-food items are not affected by Sunday trading laws.
Furthermore, the supermarket brands have invested heavily into their convenience store networks of late, again meaning that a certain percentage of theiroutlets are able to operate as normal at the end of the week.
In part, the rise of click and collect services has ushered in the need for the government to address this issue, as many consumers do not understand why they can choose to have an item delivered to their door the next day but cannot collect said item from their nearest store on a Sunday.
With small retailers struggling to adapt their online offerings to meet this rise in demand, it seems that extending opening hours may truly be the lesser of two evils for the UK’s small retail businesses.