Ditch Sunday trading laws - Next boss

Sunday may not be special for much longer if Next boss Simon Wolfson gets his way. Wolfson has called on the Government to get rid of Sunday trading restrictions.

The Tory peer claims Next revenues would lift by an extra £50m by axing the current restrictions. But how much popular support would such a change carry? Is Sunday really such a big deal in 2012?

Time up for tradition?

Well, the Labour Party certainly think so. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has already said that the move to lift restrictions on Sunday trading for the London Olympics challenges several centuries of British tradition. Several unions are also against the move.

Currently big stores with more than 280 square metres of floor space can't trade for more than six hours between 10am and 6pm on Sundays. Some business leaders who argue for change claim the move would create more jobs. But the move would also have a significant shift on the lives of millions of workers.

The increasing numbers of shops trading on Sunday has, say some, put pressure on family time. Strangely, the Conservative Party referred us to comment from the Treasury (we're waiting to hear back). "Historically we haven't been in favour or against," Morrisons supermarkets told AOL Money.

However, in a later statement, Morrisons confirmed they said that did not favour Sunday trading.

Fence sitting

We approached Marks & Spencer. They said they weren't commenting on the issue but did say they supported the British Retail Consortium's (BRC) position on it, which is currently neutral.

"We're neither in favour or against," said BRC spokesperson Richard Dodd, "because retailers have mixed views on Sunday trading reform. Some of them are in favour and believe that if big shops were allowed to open for longer hours, there is more business to justify the extra cost."

"But others," he went on, "think you would spread the business over more hours but you wouldn't sell in any more. The other aspect is that big stores are restricted but there are no restrictions on smaller stores." Which means that smaller stores might not welcome the big store competition, of course.

Xmas 2012 pressure

John Lewis has previously said, according to the FT, it is not in favour of lifting the restrictions. However in a statement sent to us, they avoided commenting on the issue directly: "As the Official Department Store Provider to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, John Lewis welcomes the relaxation of Sunday trading hours during what will be an exciting summer for retailers and the UK as a whole."

But some big traders, like Next, do clearly want change. Especially as the day before Christmas 2012 - a massive shopping day - is on a Sunday this year. (Don't expect this issue to disappear.)

Sunday trading laws were originally introduced in 1994 and covers shop workers including managers, office staff, cashiers, shelf-fillers and cleaners. You can't be forced to work on Sundays if your contract doesn't state Sunday working is expected. And if you are expected to work on a Sunday, you can legally opt out - but three months' notice is required.

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