The news comes just a few weeks after Chancellor George Osborne announced, as part of his budget communications, that Sunday trading hours could be relaxed.
The consultation, which runs until September 2015, asks whether Mayors and/or Unitary and District Councils should have the power to set Sunday trading hours in their areas and is available to download.
While this is still some way away from becoming law, we question whether, given there are over 50 Unitary Authorities and over 200 District Councils, managing the situation in this way will in fact boost the economy. Giving powers to councils to set their own Sunday trading hours has the potential to create many different local sets of acceptable opening hours. As a result, multi-sited retailers may decide to keep things simple and less confusing for their customers by keeping the current system.
This isn’t the first time the Sunday trading laws have been relaxed in England and Wales (there is no restriction in Scotland). Back in April 2012, the Sunday Trading (London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) Act was passed. This allowed for the temporary suspension of the current rules on Sunday trading for large stores in England and Wales for eight consecutive Sundays during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Government indicated that it was treating the temporary suspension as an experiment with a view to quantifying the economic benefits.
DWF commissioned IRN Research and YouGov to conduct a survey of 2,045 consumers, we then produced a report exploring the specific issues around Sunday trading and multi-channel shopping. We found that very few adults (16%) wanted a complete ban on Sunday trading and around one-in-four wanted a complete free-for-all approach - that leaves a large proportion of consumers who seemed to favour restricted Sunday trading.
After the Olympic shopping Sunday trading hours experiment, we asked shoppers ‘Have you shopped outside of the usual, pre-Olympic trading hours on a Sunday?’. Here’s what they said, and also their views on the potentially permanent relaxation of the law:
It will be interesting to see what the new legislation will bring and how councils will balance economic benefits for small ‘vs’ large retailers, and public opinion for and against the extension of shopping hours on Sundays. Follow us on twitter @DWF_RetailLaw or sign up for our weekly regulatory round-ups to keep up to date on the latest developments.