Concerns that changes to Sunday trading laws could damage high streets in Thurrock

RESEARCH conducted by the Association of Convenience Stores has shown that out of town superstores and retail parks are set to be the beneficiaries of planned changes to Sunday trading regulations.

The survey of 70 local authority chief executives across England and Wales showed that 52% included out of town retail parks, out of town supermarkets and large shopping centres as their first or second preference for deregulation of shopping location, while 45% felt that they would be influenced by the decision of neighbouring authorities, suggesting a ‘domino effect’ where authorities will be more inclined to remove Sunday trading rules if other authorities do so.

Speaking on the release of the survey, ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “The Government claimed when launching this policy that it would boost high street sales, but this is simply not true because most high street stores are already able to open whenever they want. The clear winners would be out of town retail parks and large superstores, and small retailers will suffer as a result.”

Experience from the 2012 Olympics, when Sunday trading laws were temporarily suspended, shows that longer hours did not generate any more trade, and sales simply shifted from small to large stores, costing jobs in local shops.

The Government’s Sunday trading proposals have been slammed by the Association, who also seek to bust the myth that opening hours can bring people back onto the high street.

A separate survey conducted by Populus found that of 2,000 consumers, not a single one cited Sunday trading regulations as a reason for why they shop online instead of on the high street.

Mr Lowman continued: “There is no evidence to suggest that allowing large stores to open longer will have any impact on the growing trade in online sales. Local high streets face a significant challenge in getting more customers, but the challenges they face are due to high business rates, parking charges and competitive pricing from online retailers, not longer Sunday trading hours.”

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