This is a sponsored post by Keep Sunday Special.
What makes your Sunday special? Having a day of the week different to the other six is an important punctuation mark, a day when the pace of life lets up for just a few hours before we hurtle back into the working week. This is why 60 per cent of the British public say that Sunday is distinctly different and why those opposing 24/7 shop opening can’t be pigeonholed as religious activists or as belonging to any one demographic. As a nation, we value our Sundays in countless different ways.
The Conservative Government, without including it in their 2015 manifesto, contradicting assurances given by David Cameron, and with precious little consultation, are now asking Parliament to allow all-day Sunday trading. This is a mistake and misjudges the mood of the public. In certain circles, visiting John Lewis at 10pm on Sunday evening may be regarded as a basic human right, but two thirds of the public take a more balanced view. They recognise that unlimited Sunday opening would undermine family time: the Social Market Foundation has reported that unlimited Sunday opening time disregards the Prime Minister’s much-heralded family test because of the additional hours that many people would have to work on Sundays.
But this is a small price to pay for unleashing economic growth and creating new jobs, right? Wrong. Growth can’t be created by more opening hours, it can only happen if there is a net increase in sales. We saw in 2012 when Sunday trading restrictions were suspended for the Olympics that retail sales actually fell, and this at a time when the country was awash with visitors. Retail sales are a function of disposable income, not of opening hours. The public doesn’t suddenly have more money to spend just because the shops are open longer. Oxford Economics have calculated that, overall, jobs will be lost because small stores will cut staff and investment, or even close, as their trade is displaced to big out of town stores.
The British public like the current compromise of allowing six hours Sunday opening for large stores, which gives everyone plenty of time to shop while keeping Sunday special. Let’s be clear: this is a decision from which we cannot row back. Extending Sunday trading hours now will change our Sundays forever, for everyone.