The inclusion of Sunday trading reform as part of the Enterprise Bill is welcome. It gives retailers new hope that the government will press ahead with measures to allow large shops the opportunity to extend Sunday trading hours in the capital and other English cities, writes Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company.
It is imperative that politicians vote for this bill: there is a lot at stake for retailers, staff and shoppers. Independent research shows that two extra hours of Sunday trading in the West End and Knightsbridge alone would generate an estimated £260m.
Last year, some of the biggest retailers in London, including Fenwick, Arcadia Group, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Harrods, together with New West End Company, pledged the creation of an additional 2,000 new jobs annually if they can open for just that bit longer on Sundays.
While the extension of shopping hours makes economic sense, traditionalists have claimed shop workers themselves would not support it. With this in mind we commissioned research from polling firm ComRes. The survey found nearly two-thirds (64%) of those working in the West End and Knightsbridge support plans for the option of extended hours.
Even more (66%) said they would appreciate the opportunity to work extra hours for additional pay. Many of those surveyed already work on Sundays. If London is to compete on the global retail stage, we need to make stores open and available for visitors when they want to shop. Other global shopping destinations already have long Sunday opening hours. In Hong Kong, for example, shops typically open from
10am to 10pm. International visitors to London expect a similar service. Retail workers understand this, and nearly four in five (77%) agree that London needs more flexible trading hours to accommodate tourists.
We recognise that the argument for extended trading in the West End of London may not apply everywhere. One size may not fit all. So we would support the decision being made by
locally elected officials. That way measures can be taken to protect local shops without forcing tourists to choose between shopping on Oxford Street or visiting the National Gallery or the British Museum.
All independent polling shows the same thing: shop workers and non-shop workers, churchgoers and non-church goers, all support flexibility for stores on a Sunday. But although the amendments have been tabled, the fight for reforming Sunday trading laws is not yet over.
Now the bill is in committee stage, it is more important than ever that those in favour support the government’s amendment and that it passes into law. It is good for retailers, their workers and London. We can’t let those who would block progress win the day.