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Chancellor to relax Sunday trading hours

The business community is digesting the prospect of a relaxation to Sunday trading hours after Chancellor, George Osborne announced the “biggest shake-up of Sunday trading laws since the 1990s” in his Summer Budget 2015.

Mr Osborne reiterated his desire to devolve powers to local areas and allow mayors and local councils to decide what hours traders in their region can remain open for.

Presently in England and Wales, stores over 3,000 sq ft in size can open on Sundays but only for six consecutive hours between 10:00am and 18:00pm and must close on Easter Sunday and on Christmas Day.

“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,” said the Chancellor.

“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 move will bring the UK in line with its global competitors, with Paris recently relaxing restrictions on Sunday trading, while in New York none exist whatsoever.

Recent research by the New West End Company, the business voice for London’s West End, found that extending Sunday trading hours by just two hours in the capital would create almost 3,000 new jobs and generate an additional £200 million a year in extra income.

Nevertheless, there are fears among smaller independent retailers that longer Sunday opening hours could harm their prospects for growth.

The Rural Shops Alliance (RSA), which represents 7,500 retailers, said the government’s new plan flew in the face of a Conservative party manifesto promise to protect the future of 3,000 rural post offices.

“The vast majority of these post offices are sited within a rural convenience store and hence their very existence depends on the host store remaining profitable,” the lobby group said.

“There is universal agreement that the existing Sunday trading laws provide a modest but very welcome boost to smaller convenience stores, which are able to meet customers’ needs at times on Sundays when larger stores are closed.”

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