The Government’s attempt to frame the lifting of Sunday trading restrictions as a way of helping key workers during the COVID-19 crisis is “nothing more than misdirection”, a campaign group has said.
Writing on Conservative Home, Keep Sunday Special said claims it would boost the economy are “utterly unconvincing” because in the last decade no study of high street regeneration has recommended longer Sunday shopping hours.
The group noted that more liberal shopping rules are unpopular with the public, retail experts and shopworkers themselves.
Keep Sunday special
Keep Sunday Special, which was founded in 1985, highlighted recent polling showing current Sunday Trading regulations are widely supported.
The consumer survey by Populus found 58% of the public support the current regulations with 21% opposed. Of those, many are understood to favour stricter regulations, including the full closure of shops on Sundays.
They added: “In the coming weeks and months, moving past the lockdown and into the next phase of this pandemic, the Government must focus on policies that will bring the nation together in recovery, not divide it.
“Sunday Trading regulations provide a delicate balance that supports shopworkers, families and independent business owners and ensures that for just a few hours, Sunday remains special. Let’s keep it that way.”
In a letter to The Mirror, John Barstow, Chief Executive of shopworkers’ union Usdaw, expressed similar sentiments.
He said: “The Government’s proposals to extend supermarket Sunday trading hours are unnecessary and disrespectful to retail workers – who are key workers – and to Sunday as a day of rest.
“The pressure for doing away with rules on Sunday hours appears to come from a few supermarket players competing with small retailers and online firms that don’t face the same trading restrictions.”
He suggested rather than lifting restrictions, they could be made tighter, by applying them to online deliveries and small shops. “MPs may support such a measure which would protect Sunday’s special status, after all, Parliament does not convene on this day.”
Families and communities
Earlier this week, Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy said she was “not at all convinced” that more Sunday shopping would “help to get the economy back on track”.
She added: “We’ve just been applauding our frontline workers, supermarket workers are amongst those. They are deeply worried about what this all means for them in terms of time with their families.”