Against a backdrop of predicted widespread cuts to reduce the deficit, the news will be a welcome boost to business throughout the country.
Under current legislation, smaller shops can be open all day while those over 280 sq m can only trade for up to six hours. Some get round this by having a browsing only period at the start of the day, but are still limited when compared to smaller firms.
The Treasury has suggested that the change, leading to two extra hours of Sunday trading, could create up to 3,000 jobs in London and generate a further £200m in sales.
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Jo Causon, CEO of The Institute of Customer Service, commented: “Longer opening hours may be welcomed by consumers whose lifestyle means they demand greater choice and convenience to shop, but being ‘open all hours’ will not necessarily guarantee that customers get the shopping experience they want.
“Britain is already renowned for a long-hours culture and by encouraging more time ‘on the clock’ we could create a nation of disgruntled employees who feel compelled to put the hours in.
“The fact is that great customer service is not just about opening the doors earlier, for longer. It’s also vital to create an environment that frontline staff want to be part of, so they are engaged enough to provide the sort of quality service that encourages customers to return again and again. Only when there is a clear link between employee and customer needs will we have a chance of boosting the economy and closing the productivity gap.”
During the London Olympics of 2012, larger retailers were permitted to open for longer, resulting in a surge in sales. However, then coalition partner the Liberal Democrats spoke out against the move because it viewed that Sundays should “remain special”.
Osborne said of the issue: “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.
“This will be another part of my plan to ensure a truly national recovery, with our great towns and cities able to determine their own futures.”