Why Sunday trading restrictions must go

Our writer argues that Sunday trading restrictions are out of date and holding us back…

Updated: 
Why Sunday trading restrictions must go

It's ridiculous to restrict Sunday opening hours when the economy is still struggling to recover and grow. Remember the success of 2012?

During the Olympics and Paralympics, Sunday trading laws were suspended in England and Wales, meaning shops bigger than 280 square metres could open for more than six hours. The social fabric didn't come apart at the seams, it was just easier to shop on a Sunday for a few glorious weeks.

Yet look at why the restrictions were lifted during the Games in the first place – George Osborne said: "When millions of visitors come to Britain... we don't want to hang up a 'closed for business' sign."

So why, in these times of high unemployment and struggling High Street retail are we ever hanging up a 'closed for business' sign?

The high street has enough competition from the web without placing further restrictions in shoppers' paths. You can shop online whenever you like, so why limit the daytime hours even further for large retailers?

You might be worried about the workers. Shouldn't they have at least one day off a week to spend relaxing with their families? But think about it – these restrictions only apply to large shops. Nurses and firefighters have to work, but so to do bar staff and call centre workers.

If you're so fussed about individuals' rights, maybe you should worry more about the unemployed or those scraping by on a pittance, and who could really use the extra day's wages.

By reducing the Sunday trading restrictions, you give everyone – employers, staff and shoppers – more choice. There are no Sunday restrictions in Scotland, and I haven't noticed the family unit collapsing there.

Official figures show that eight million people work under 25 hours a week and 1.4 million of those say they would prefer full-time work. So why are we restricting the hours that major retailers – major employers – can open?

The only significant argument I can see in favour of Sunday trading restrictions is that it gives small convenience stores a better chance against the mega supermarkets.

But if Sunday trading restrictions are the only thing standing between them and bankruptcy then they clearly need to adapt their business models. I resent paying their higher prices simply because it's 5pm on a Sunday and I have no choice.

Consumers expect to be able to shop when they like – and the economy needs them to do so. Spending nothing on a Sunday was fine when we all lived in villages and spent the day playing cricket on the green. But it's totally at odds with modern life and the challenging economic climate.

Do you think Sunday trading restrictions should be abandoned? Did you approve of the change during the Olympics? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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