To Shop or Not To Shop

This is going to be a deceivingly political post I’m afraid, so anyone here just for the make up chat should probably check back soon for a different type of post! I was inspired to write about the current plans, due to be released in the Budget tomorrow, for extended Sunday trading hours. Amateurly diagnosed as a shopaholic by almost everyone I know, this is something that interests me.

However, this really jumped out at me due to my time spent working in retail, which I thought at the time was the worst job imaginable. I will say, however, in advance, that I pretty much only worked Sundays, and I made some great friends there, and that most of my colleagues were amazingly nice and took great care of me.

The ability to extend Sunday trading hours would be allocated at local level, with elected mayors and councils allowed to introduce the new law if they believe it will benefit the area economically. Although this will create inequalities across the country, it also means that hours need only be changed if they really need to be, eradicating the possibility of shops being allowed to stay open longer for little or no benefit. Arguments levelled against the proposals have made the case that if people are travelling to different parts of the country, they won’t know whether things will be open or not. However, is this not the case anyway? How are people to know whether a Tesco or Sainsburys along their way is small enough to be open late or not? And quite frankly, with the amount of technology and connectivity we have available on the go, there’s always a simple and quick way of knowing whether a shop is open or not.

Research by the New West End Company suggested that 2 extra hours of trading on a Sunday would bring in 3000 new jobs and an extra £200 million in sales in London alone. Impressive figures, even if 2 extra working hours once a week seems unlikely to help create 3000 brand new jobs. There’s no doubt however that it will create jobs, as more shifts are created, and shops need to function for those extra hours.

It also seems extremely likely that sales will rise. Many people avoid shopping on a Sunday due to the short hours, especially when many have to travel to other towns and cities to do their shopping. A longer journey means trips are made less often, but more time will be spent shopping. When people know that they are unlikely to get all of their shopping done, they will instead go another day, most likely Saturday, or not at all. Saturdays are already exceedingly busy and crowded, which again deters many who perhaps don’t need to shop but might want to, but are put off by the atmosphere and the promise of plentiful queueing. Longer hours on a Sunday will put Saturday and Sunday on a par, spreading out the Saturday crush and boosting Sunday sales.

The Chancellor noted a “growing appetite” for shopping on a Sunday, which I think the above refers to. People are working all week and often can’t get anywhere in time in the evenings. Saturdays are, as mentioned, busy, but people are also doing more on a Saturday, with the rise of activities and clubs realting to sports and the like. Sunday increasingly appears to be the only day people have free, which is prime for the occassional shopping trip, or even the weekly shop.

One main grievance with the plan is the pressure it will put on workers. Anna Soubry, Small Business Minister, believes that local authorities will make the right decisions for the people in their area. Indeed, workers may have to work longer hours on a Sunday, but they will not be any longer than any other days worked. Sunday workers are often only weekend workers, so have time in the week to themselves, or some work 5 days a week and so get other days off. An extra 2 hours on Sunday simply levels the playing the field. In addition, people have argued that another pressure on workers might be taking them away from their families on a Sunday. Two extra hours will make a difference to some people, but for others it will not. Some will welcome the extra pay. And, ultimately, if you are working on a Sunday, whether it is 6 hours or 8, you are going to miss out on family gatehrings and the like anyway. As sad as that may seem, I’m attempting to reinforce the fact that, for the majority of workers, an extra couple of hours at work (if that’s how their company adapts to the extended trading hours) won’t make too much difference.

Personally, of course, if this had happened when I was working – although I worked 7.5 hours anyway as it was a small shop – I’d definitely have hated it. But that’s because I only worked Sundays, so it would have had a massive impact, as it would ahve increased the total hours I worked by 33%. It is only one day a week, and I think the greatest impact will fall not on workers, but upon small shops and business which haven’t previously been restricted by Sunday trading hours, and which have benefitted from the extra hours on a Sunday when big shops and supermarkets can’t trade.

Well I’m going to end this rambling post here! What I really wanted to get across is that I think this plan, if implemented, would create much greater benefits than disadvantages. If the Government’s plan does go ahead, and is blocked by rebel Tory MPs and SNP politicians in parliament, both politicians and shoppers are going to lose out..!


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