The UK’s Parliament recently voted against extending Sunday trading hours for larger retailers. Verastar has learned that lobbying organisation the Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) has suggested that this is a positive result for UK small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

Parliamentary rejection

Under UK law, shops which measure no more than 280 square meters in size can open any day or any hour. However, retailers whose size measures over this threshold can only open for six consecutive hours, between 10am and 6pm, on Sundays.

Whitehall previously submitted legislation to Parliament which is designed to extend Sunday trading hours for larger British retailers. The law would have provided local councils with the ability to decide whether to lengthen Sunday trading times in their areas. The UK government published data which suggested that voting in favour of this measure would generate an estimated £1.5 billion for the country’s economy over the next decade.

Consistent policy

Speaking ahead of the vote John Witherell, head of supermarkets at CBRE, argued: “Should restrictions be relaxed, out-of-town supermarkets will certainly see consumers taking advantage of the extended shopping hours, but simply spending over a longer period, rather than spending any more.”

Witherell suggested this would be detrimental for retailers. Longer trading hours would impose increased costs, but businesses would not receive extra income required to balance out these expenses. Continuing, he said: “Whatever is decided by each authority, there needs to be consistency in how it is delivered rather than a splintered approach: if consumers aren’t clear, the overall benefits won’t be felt.”

Welcomed by SMEs

However, news agency Reuters reports that Parliament rejected the legislation to extend Sunday trading hours for larger British retailers. According to Small Business, an online SME publication, this rejection was welcomed by the FSB. The organisation’s policy director, Mike Cherry, said:  “Today’s vote in the House of Commons is a major win for small businesses across England and Wales.

“Our members have been unconvinced of the economic case for relaxing Sunday trading rules and there has been no impact assessment to support the proposals. FSB calls on ministers to listen to the views of small business and of the House of Commons on this issue.” Cherry added that the current system is the perfect compromise. It allows families to spend time together, employees to work and provides small retail companies with the support they require from their local communities.

The vast majority of UK businesses are SMEs. It is clear why both the FSB and Parliament opposed Whitehall’s plans to extend Sunday trading hours. Without an impact assessment, it is hard to determine how this change would effect smaller retailers, consumers and the wider UK economy.


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