Why It’s Time to Deregulate Sunday Trading Laws
In this opinion piece, Ben Carpenter puts forward the case for reforming Sunday trading laws.
25 years ago last August, shops in England and Wales became legally allowed to trade for a limited number of hours on Sundays. The Sunday Trading Act 1994 allowed large stores to trade for six continuous hours between 10 am and 6 pm. In 1994, Tony Blair became Labour leader and Amazon was just a river in South America.
My first experience of Sunday trading was one family journey from Scotland when we stopped at a Morrisons in Carlisle:
“Can I take this paper?”
“No - can’t serve you until 10 am.”
“I’m sorry, but why not?”
“Sunday trading laws - but you can go across to the petrol station and buy it there.”
“So I can buy the newspaper in the petrol station but not the supermarket, which is currently open?”
“Yes. And you can buy a roll and some bacon in the café, but not in the main supermarket.”
This conversation occurred as we lived in Scotland where Sunday trading laws did not exist and we had never encountered such bureaucratic nonsense. It didn’t make sense to me then and still doesn’t today.
As the high street takes a battering from online shopping, surely it is time for England and Wales to deregulate Sunday trading laws. This would generate £2bn in tax revenue and create 74,000 jobs while removing an unnecessary regulatory burden from local authorities - all for free.
Go to Bullring, Liverpool One, Metro-Centre, Trafford Centre, Cribbs Causeway - they are all bursting to the seams with five minutes to closing time. If people want to spend their money, let them spend it. Go to Glasgow or Edinburgh and you can shop until you drop! Why not in Bristol, Liverpool and London, too?
That extra £2bn is enough to scrap prescription charges, hospital parking charges and eye or dental charges in England - with change left over.
Also, how is it fair that B&Q gets six hours to trade on a Sunday yet Amazon gets 24? By deregulating Sunday trading laws, we can level the playing field in retail.
The Sunday Trading Act is no longer fit for purpose precisely because it fails to account for the growth of online shopping, which is replacing traditional retail.
It is also a bureaucratic joke. Midnight pharmacies which close at 4 pm. Family-run garden centres that can’t open until 10 am when Tesco Express opens at 7. Cafés inside a supermarket where you can get full English at 930 am but can’t buy the actual ingredients in the main shop.
The demand for deregulated Sunday trading in England and Wales is there; if it wasn’t, supermarkets and shopping centres would always be deserted at closing hours. It’s a vote winner and I think Renew should promote deregulation to improve our retail sector.
By Ben Carpenter