Those who seek to remove the Sunday Trading regulations make a number of arguments in support of their position. This mythbuster deals with each of those arguments and the evidence that shows why they are flawed.
Claim: 'The public are in favour of change'.
May 2020 polling from Populus shows the overwhelming support of the public for the existing Sunday trading hours. 58% of the public support the current rules and only 21% oppose them. Of those that oppose many would like to see greater restrictions on Sunday trading hours.
Claim: 'Shopworkers want to work longer on Sundays'.
Usdaw survey of shopworkers shows that 91% are opposed to longer opening hours because of its impacts on family time and work-life balance. Shopworkers deserve support after stepping up to help feed the nation throughout this pandemic, many of whom have worked longer hours already to cover absent colleagues following public health advice.
Claim: 'Extending Sunday trading hours is pro-growth or pro-jobs'.
Longer opening hours would not support the post-pandemic economic recovery. There is no link between opening hours and consumers’ disposable income; longer opening hours would raise operating costs for retailers and there is no evidence consumers are struggling to access shops.
The main impact would be displacing trade from small shops and high streets to large out of town retail parks and supermarkets. Oxford Economics analysis has shown that extending Sunday trading hours would displace 3.4% of weekly sales from local shops to supermarkets. The change will not facilitate spending that otherwise would not have happened.
Oxford Economics analysis of the temporary removal of Sunday trading hours in 2012 across England and Wales showed a loss in sales to local shops worth up to £870 million and estimate permanent removal of Sunday trading hours would cause a net loss of 3,270 jobs to the grocery sector.
Claim: 'Removing Sunday Trading hours during 2012 boosted sales'
According to the ONS, year on year retail sales growth for the three months of summer 2012 was weaker than both 2011 and 2013 when Sunday Trading regulations were in place. Additionally, the BRC-KPMG sales monitor for August 2012 reported sales values down 0.4% on the same month in 2011.
Claim: 'Extending Sunday Trading hours will help high streets'.
None of the seven-substantive parliamentary, academic and industry-led high street reviews since 2011, with over 150 recommendations between them, have recommended changing Sunday trading hours.
Claim: 'Extending Sunday Trading hours will help with social distancing'.
Retailers are already enforcing Covid-19 Secure guidelines and longer opening hours would have no impact on the effectiveness of social distancing. A change to the 2m social distancing rule would have a far more signficant impact than a few extra trading hours on one day, and if anything retailers are opening for fewer hours during the week to keep stores clean.
Claim: 'Sunday should be just like any other day'
Removing Sunday trading would fail the Government’s ‘family test’ for policymaking. These proposals come at a time when 48% report that work affects their time spent together as a family and ability to manage their wellbeing. Extending opening hours would only serve to increase high rates of overtime and weekend working and exacerbate problems sourcing childcare.
Abolishing Sunday trading would erode the specialness of the day and turn a Sunday into a regular working day for many people. Although workers can theoretically opt-out of Sunday working, three months’ notice is required and replacement hours do not have to be offered, reducing incomes amongst low-paid workers.
Claim: 'Big supermarkets have a monopoly on the small shop sector'
There are over 46,000 convenience stores in the UK, and 71% of those are run by independent retailers. Small shops run by big supermarket chains like Tesco and Sainsburys account for less than one in ten of the total number of stores in the UK.