During last week’s Budget, George Osborne announced that powers over trading hours are to be devolved to major towns and cities in England and Wales, giving mayors and local councils the option to extend opening times on Sundays.
The Sunday Trading Act, which came into force in 1994, currently prevents businesses from opening for more than six hours on a Sunday. Mr Osborne argued that the decision to relax these regulations was made to fill a growing demand for Sunday shopping and to provide business with a chance to compete with online retailers. By extending Sunday trading hours, he believes thousands of new jobs could be created.
Mr Osborne said: “Even two decades on from the introduction of the Sunday Trading Act, it is clear that there is still a growing appetite for shopping on a Sunday. There is some evidence that transactions for Sunday shopping are actually growing faster than those for Saturday.”
Particularly for a city as large and globally focussed as London, longer opening hours could make a big difference and provide an opportunity to remain an attractive destination for tourists, while competing with other large cities like New York, where there are no trading restrictions in place.
On a small scale, the impact of longer opening hours has already been tested. When Sunday trading rules were relaxed during the 2012 London Olympics, this resulted in a significant surge in sales.
Now, bosses from retailers including Arcadia, Marks & Spencer, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Fenwick and Harrods have pledged to create 2,000 jobs in London if Sunday trading hours are to be extended.
Research from the New West End Company (NWEC), which represents 600 retailers in London’s West End, found that an extra two hours of trading on a Sunday would boost central London businesses by £260m each year and provide more than 2,000 additional full-time retail jobs. Their study also reported that the potential extension of Sunday trading hours could lead to an almost 50% uplift in West End turnover, increasing from £8.8bn in 2014 to £16bn by 2025.
The retail industry already contributes significantly to London’s economy, with the sector accounting for about 40 % of all money spent in the capital and providing nearly 10 % of all employment in the metropolitan area.
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