Retailers could benefit from eight weekends of extended trading during the Olympics if the government suspends Sunday trading laws as expected.
Chancellor George Osborne is expected to propose emergency legislation to allow retailers in England and Wales to trade for six extra hours during the Olympics and Paralympics starting on July 22.
Ministers hope the proposals, to be put forward in the Chancellor’s Budget speech on Wednesday, will be passed by Easter.
Osborne said it would be a “great shame” if the UK’s retailers hung a “closed for business” sign up to the influx of tourists expected as a result of the event.
The Sunday Trading Act 1994 states that shops over 280sqm are restricted to any six hours of continuous trading between 10am and 6pm on Sundays.
The government hopes the relaxation will offset some of the £9bn cost of hosting the games.
But the proposals have not been universally welcomed. Union Usdaw’s general secretary John Hannett said “deregulation would have a very detrimental impact on the lives of millions of shopworkers”.
Usdaw called for store staff to be consulted before any decision is made while campaign group Keep Sunday Special also opposed the plans.
Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman expressed concern that any relaxation could allow large retailers to lobby government for exemptions frequently for other events.
In Scotland, retailers can choose the hours they trade on Sundays.