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Sunday trading: industry reaction

The industry reacts to the news that Sunday trading hours could be abolished for some of the UK’s largest retailers following the emergency budget on Wednesday (July 8).


Marks & Spencer chief executive Mark Bolland said: “We have not been part of an extensive lobby for [a change in trading hours], but if [the law] relaxes we will certainly use it in stores where it is wanted and we would welcome it for certain stores. We will have a good look at what locations will be suitable. I would think there would be a number of locations in London that would be suitable.”

A spokesman for House of Fraser said: “House of Fraser is in favour of any industry change that supports our customers’ shopping experience, in terms of providing further flexibility and choice as to how or when they shop, be that through our store portfolio or through our market-leading multichannel proposition.”

Anne Pitcher, managing director of Selfridges, said: “Selfridges is fully supportive of an extension to Sunday trading hours. We are aware that our domestic and international customers expect to find the option of a 24/7 lifestyle, and this includes shopping – be it visiting stores in vibrant cities such as London, Birmingham and Manchester or browsing and purchasing on-line. We strive to provide exceptional experience for everyone that visits Selfridges, and offering them greater flexibility about when they can visit us, from late night shopping to extended Sunday hours, makes complete sense and ensures that everyone is welcome.”

Michael Weedon, deputy chief executive of Bira, said: “It’s an answer to a question that no consumer has been asking. There has been no public pressure for any extension so it remains to be seen if consumers are actually that bothered. At the moment exactly half of bira members open on Sundays, so if this forces the other half to start opening then they could see their people costs rising by a sixth or more for no guaranteed increase in income. If the chancellor [George Osborne] sticks to the pre-released version then he’s going to a) consult on b) allowing local councils and elected mayors to decide what they want to do locally, so there will be dozens of local debates and, probably, a patchwork of outcomes, which is not as clear a change as the headlines today are saying.”

A Tesco spokesman said: “We understand there are strong views on either side of the debate over further liberalisation of Sunday trading. Such a decision is of course a matter for government, striking the right balance between this extra flexibility and the growing number of ways there are for customers to shop already. We will review the detail of any proposals when they are published.”

Richard Dickinson, chief executive New West End Company, said:  “We welcome the consultation announced by the chancellor. We have been working for some time and have done some economic analysis that shows that this could really help the West End and Knightsbridge. Essentially it’s a tourism measure, recognising that cities like London have an important tourism and retail economy and it makes no sense to shut the doors early. Whether its Chinese or Middle Eastern shoppers, they are all quite surprised when they find out stores shut earlier. We are losing our international competitiveness against cities that don’t have these old fashioned regulations like New York and Paris. We’re not saying it is right for all parts of the country; it will be key cities and seaside towns that would benefit the most. Larger retailers are likely to choose on a store-by-store basis which ones they would open longer.”

Ed Cooke, director of policy and public affairs at British Council of Shopping Centres, said: “It is positive development as the government is reviewing trading hours in response to the changing business models and the way consumers shop. We are increasingly aware of the need for a symbiotic relationship between virtual and physical retailing and aligning opening hours should be a part of that. There will be consequences for certain businesses and places we will have to wait and see the budget before we see how beneficial or otherwise it will be.”

Adrian Pepper, director of campaigning group Open Sundays, said: “These changes should herald a new era of personal freedom, consumer choice and lower prices. People living in England and Wales should soon have the same freedom to go shopping at times of the day on a Sunday that the Scots already take for granted. These reforms should also help the high street catch up with online retail. It is bizarre that you can currently take delivery of your online shopping at 9am on a Sunday but you cannot visit a store to buy the same goods.”

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