London Businesses Advocate for Changes in Sunday Trading Regulations
Businesses in London, grappling with sluggish sales amid the prevailing cost-of-living challenges, are urging the government to reconsider Sunday trading rules.
The Knightsbridge Partnership Business Improvement District (BID) supports extended opening hours, projecting a potential annual revenue boost of £300 million. Liberal Democrat members of the London Assembly also argue that such a change could enhance tourism and job opportunities.
Despite these pleas, the government have no intentions to amend existing legislation.
Sunday trading regulations trace their roots back to the Sunday Fares Act of 1488 when Sundays were traditionally observed as a day of religious rest. A shift occurred in 1994 with the introduction of the Sunday Trading Act, permitting small shops to open without time restrictions on Sundays. However, larger stores exceeding 3,000 sq ft (280 sq m) are limited to a six-hour window.
Steven Medway, CEO of the Knightsbridge Partnership BID, emphasized the potential benefits, stating, "We did a report a few years ago, where we estimated that we would generate an extra £300m a year and generate 2,000 jobs if the relaxation of Sunday trading was implemented."
Medway noted that high-end establishments like Harrods turn away numerous visitors on Sunday evenings, citing examples of other global cities like Paris and New York, which have eased their trading laws.
While proponents argue for economic stimulation, some small business owners express concerns about heightened Sunday competition if larger stores extend their opening hours.
Chandra Goyal, owner of Central Food and Wine shop in Soho, voiced apprehensions, stating, "It is a very popular day on Sunday for us. We do a couple of thousand in business... but that will not happen if all the bigger supermarkets open,"
He explains, "We're a small business, so we cannot beat supermarket prices."
In Scotland, there has never been legislation restricting Sunday trading, allowing shops to operate freely. Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Hina Bokhari drew attention to the success of this approach in Scotland, questioning why London couldn't follow suit.
"We've already seen that in Scotland it's been very successful and we haven't seen that kind of impact on the smaller businesses. If other cities are doing it, why can't London?," Bokhari remarked.
However, not all politicians are fully convinced of the necessity for such changes. Labour MP Ellie Reeves suggests a more cautious approach, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a work-life balance for employees. She advocates for alternative measures such as business rate reform, increased policing in retail areas, and strategies to combat vacant shop spaces.
Conservative MP Sir Bob Neill, while acknowledging the need to update laws, proposed a more measured approach, suggesting a pilot scheme during peak times or in specific London areas. He underscored the importance of ensuring that shops and staff are not unduly burdened.
In response to the growing calls for change, a government spokesperson stated, "There are currently no plans to change the Sunday Trading Act."
Article by BBC News
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