I was amazed to find that 89 percent of the British public would be opposed to any relaxation of Sunday trading laws.
The figure landed in my inbox this morning courtesy of a survey commissioned by the Association of Convenience Stores.
Firstly, I’m amazed that 89 percent of the general public cares and secondly I personally don’t know anyone that would hold that opinion. I can imagine a high percentage of apathy, but for nearly nine tenths of people surveyed to oppose shops being open later on a Sunday, I don’t quite understand it.
Many a time I’ve been caught out on a Sunday with bare cupboards and it is a bitter feeling of regret that sinks in when you realise it’s gone four o’clock and most decent shops are shut. And it’s with a heavy heart that I’ve trailed down to the local dodgy newsagent and been forced to forage for the last remaining, unappealing loaf of Nimble instead of the Hovis of my dreams.
Evenworseis the sheer panic of screeching round a shopping centre desperately trying to find a last-minute gift in a race against time.
But putting my personal consumer experiences aside, the facts are that times have changed. Britain is a multicultural nation with many races and religions and while it’s lovely to imagine everyone having a day of rest on a Sunday, the cold hard fact is that attendance to churches is dropping, and church is the original reason for the laws.
The latest figures from the Church of England show that less than 2 percent of the UK attends Church of England services weekly. And attendance figures are steadily dropping every year.
The UK high street needs a boost and as Gordon Brown loves to say, we need to spend our way out of this recession. Therefore should the public really be opposed to longer trading hours on a Sunday? Just because shops are open on a Sunday doesn’t mean you have to go into them, but it does give retailers a bash at grabbing a few extra sales. And it gives most shoppers a chance to shop to their heart’s content on a Sunday, which for most is now just another day.
And this year the debate over Sunday trading laws is even more important as Boxing Day will fall on a Sunday this year, cutting one of the nation’s most-loved shopping days short. And the poll claims that 85 percent of people are still opposed to an extension even on Boxing Day.
Shopworkers union Usdaw has backed the findings of the poll and has said that its workers should be entitled to a day off on a Sunday. One independent retailer I spoke to recently said that he was really struggling to find people willing to work on a Sunday, and while everyone, I’m sure, would love a day off on a Sunday, if you choose a career in retail then you have to accept that this will probably involve some weekend work. If you’re completely opposed to it, then perhaps it’s not the sector for you.
Perhaps I really am in the minority 5 percent that the poll found would welcome a relaxation in trading laws. But I suspect the real figure might be just a little higher than this.