Retail organisations including the British Council of Shopping Centres and New West End Company have expressed their disappointment after the government’s proposals to relax Sunday trading laws in England and Wales were defeated.
Edward Cooke, director of policy and public affairs at the BCSC, said: “This whole reform process has been farcical and the SNP blocking changes to a system driven by a desire to localise decision making is the cherry on top.
“Reform would have enabled retailers to more closely align this aspect of their online and physical store operations and address the wild inconsistencies in trading hours between leisure, restaurant and retail outlets.
“Change is essential if retailers are to meet consumer demand – with our own footfall data showing that the number of shoppers continues to increase outside of office hours. Only last Sunday we reported visitor numbers increased 10% between 4pm and 9pm against the previous year.”
Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company, was also “very disappointed” by the result. “This was an opportunity to re-energise our high streets and, as our independent polling showed, was supported by retailers and workers alike.
“The economic evidence in favour of extended hours is clear - £260m every year and the equivalent of 2000 new, full-time, jobs would be created in the West End and Knightsbridge alone with just two extra hours every Sunday.”
He added: “The economic factors that made this proposal necessary now will only get stronger over time, so while we accept and respect today’s result, we hope that it will be reconsidered in the future.”
However, the British Retail Consortium said: “There are different views across retail over whether the relaxation of Sunday trading hours is a good or a bad thing for retailers and their staff.
“Of much more importance is the government’s review of the business rates system, which concludes at next week’s Budget.”
The government had proposed to allow councils and elected mayors to decide whether to allow local retailers to open for longer on Sundays. However, yesterday MPs voted against the plans by a majority of 31. Labour and the Scottish National Party voted against, along with a group of Tory rebels.