With a little over a week to go until the consultation closes (16th September) there is still an opportunity to influence the UK’s retail landscape.

Since the last change in the law 21 years ago we have become used to pretty uniform trading patterns across the UK – large stores (over 280sqm) are permitted to open on Sundays for a maximum of 6 hours between 10am and 6pm. Those large stores are typically main (not local) supermarkets, outlets found on retail parks and major high street stores.

Smaller shops have freedom of choice whether to open on Sundays, and for what period of time. There is no obligation to do so.

No worker with a contract which started before the current law (Sunday Trading Act 1994) came into force, and who has had continuous employment since then, can be required to work on a Sunday. For other workers there are opt-out provisions.

No large stores can open on Easter Sunday or Christmas Day.

There are no proposals to change the worker protections, or the Christmas and Easter restrictions.

However the growth of 24/7 online retailing, which now accounts for well over 10% of all retail transactions in the UK, and the competitive straitjacket that is felt to hamper London in particular with its massive tourist industry, many of whom are surprised to find limited Sunday shopping, has led to this consultation.

The questions posed are simple. The Government is in favour of deregulation, and prefers a model of devolution to local authorities (or metropolitan mayors) so that local decisions can be made which are most beneficial to local communities and which strike a balance between competing views in local areas. Under these proposals, local decisions could leave the position as it is, relax the rules in relation, say, to the central shopping area of a small town, or a single high street, or deregulate more extensively (for example in major cities).

Responses can be submitted online or in more traditional media and these are the specific questions:-

  1. Should local areas have the power to extend trading hours on a Sunday?
  2. If the power is devolved, who do you think should be given the power to change Sunday trading rules?
  3. How would you be impacted by changes to local Sunday trading rules?
  4. Where did you hear about this consultation?

The link to the consultation is here:- https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/devolving-sunday-trading-rules