Struggling high streets to benefit from extended Sunday hours as consultation launched

Chancellor George Osborne announced in his Summer Budget that he would be giving elected mayors and councils the power to grant longer opening hours on Sundays.

He 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.

“The rise of online shopping, which people can do round the clock, also means more retailers want to be able to compete by opening for longer at the weekend. But this won’t be right for every area, so I want to devolve the power to make this decision to mayors and local authorities.”

The existing Sunday trading laws were introduced more than 20 years ago before high-street shops faced competition from online retailers. The law currently prevents large stores from opening for more than six hours. Small shops covering less than 3,000 sq ft can open all day.

The Treasury has suggested that the change, leading to two extra hours of Sunday trading, could create 3,000 jobs in London and generate a further £200m in sales.

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The move was officially announced by the communities minister Brandon Lewis and business minister Anna Soubry on 5 August 2015, at the launch of a consultation process on liberalising Sunday trading laws.

The consultation will look at two proposals on devolving Sunday trading. 

In the government’s consultation document, it claimed that extending Sunday trading rules is estimated to result in benefits equivalent to £1.5bn per year. This was echoed by a study from the London School of Economics, which compared the effects of extended Sunday trading hours in a number of European countries. It found that the amount people spent on non-durable retail products, such as food, rose by up to 12.5 per cent following deregulation

At its core, the document suggested the government’s aim to make Britain the best place in Europe, and one of the top five worldwide to do business in by 2020, could only be reached by supporting local high streets in the Internet age. 

Internet sales now account for 11.5 per cent of all retail sales compared to just 2.8 per cent nearly a decade ago, the document stated. Internet retail sales also averaged £734m a week in May 2015.

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