Maximising revenue – opening hours

The government has just announced that it proposes a temporary relaxation of Sunday trading laws to optimise the opportunities for businesses during the Games. But can you take advantage? Your right to trade is of course not just a matter of statute. It depends upon the terms of your lease. Sometimes the trading hours of a business will be restricted and your landlord’s consent will need to be obtained to any increased them. It may or may not be incumbent upon him to act reasonably when he considers any such request.

A careful review of your lease terms will be required to establish what scope you have to increase trading hours and what scope your landlord has to object.

Even if your landlord is willing to oblige – does your planning permission allow you to extend your trading? You are probably aware of the risk of enforcement action by your local planning authority if you breach planning. But do you know how quickly that might happen? A local authority has a range of powers to halt trade including stop notices and injunctions. The key is to prepare early, review the relevant planning permissions, agreements and history of use- and if you want to trade longer or differently- don’t leave anything to chance.

You will also need to consider the staffing requirements to maximise this opportunity.  

Maximising revenue- temporary lets

In recent times temporary lets have been an increasing feature of the high street. So too the strategy of pop up units, particularly at peak trading times such as Christmas. You may well have already spotted an opportunity for temporary trade to take advantage of increased or exceptional footfall during the Games. If you have then of course you will need to think about whether a temporary planning permission might be required. And you’ll need to plan ahead if you want to ensure that the appropriate planning consents are in place to guarantee the right to trade during the critical period.  

Access to services

As a retailer you’ll already be aware of your duties under the Equality Act 2010. The aim of the Act is to make services available to everyone in the same way. That requires businesses to anticipate potential difficulties that disabled people might experience and to take steps to overcome them.

It’s a particularly relevant issue for retailers because the shopping experience will often now be a key differentiator for disabled customers. So businesses that are more accessible have the potential to be more profitable.

But have you consider your equality strategy specifically in the context of the Olympics? Over one million disabled visitors are expected in London for the Olympic and Paralympic Games and some will undoubtedly travel more widely so there is a real risk that any gaps in your processes could be exposed. And there’s an added risk of breach if you are using temporary premises for retail which may not have been subject to the same rigorous equality audit as would usually be the case.  

Are you covered?

Don’t forget to check (if you haven’t already) that there aren’t any gaps in your insurance policy which could put your business inadvertently at risk if you extend trading hours or broaden the scope of your trade. It’s usually a question of reminding yourself who is responsible for insuring relevant units - yourself or your landlord. Whoever is responsible they’ll need to ensure that the cover is fit for purpose during these exceptional trading conditions. If necessary the policy will need to be temporarily extended.

Maximising revenue – the supply chain

Across London the Olympics is likely to bring disruption to the supply chain through higher volumes of traffic and road diversions. And even beyond that, this unique event has the potential to produce unusual trading conditions which could put strain on store delivery arrangements.

All of this at a time when the need to keep your stores supplied with stock is critically important.

If you have not considered a strategy for ensuring that delivery routes and service bays remain unimpeded during the Games then now is the time to do so. The arrangement for deliveries to store may be prescribed by both the terms of individual leases and planning conditions. Both will need to be checked to ensure that delivery times are not restricted to certain times of the day or on certain days. If they are then you should seek permission to amend these times, if only on a temporary basis, to ensure that you can maximise your business opportunities.  

Signage, displays and products – do’s and don’ts

Reflecting the spirit of the Games is likely to be a vital part of many retailers strategy over the summer period. But be very careful. Strict advertising laws protect official Olympic sponsors and infringements, however accidental, can carry with them severe penalties. In some circumstances they can even be a criminal offence.

Unless you are an official sponsor, certain key representations including the five interlocking Olympic Rings and Olympic logos cannot be used. But the restrictions go much further and mean that even seemingly innocent graphics which suggest an official association between the retailer and the Olympics could fall foul of the legislation.  

Managing your staff

Employers can expect to receive a notable increase in requests for annual leave and may get requests for time off from volunteers – there may also be an increase in unauthorised / sickness absence. Agreeing to too many successful requests for annual leave threatens business continuity during a very busy and profitable trading period.

Have you considered an official annual leave policy to deal with this? For instance covering deadlines for annual leave requests, confirming the minimum number of staff in each unit during trading hours and setting out consequences for unexplained absences. The rules around unauthorised or sickness absence may need to be reinforced in the run up to the Games. The introduction and implementation of a clear absence policy could be an important part of ensuring business continuity during the Games.

If additional opening hours are likely or more staff needed to work in peak periods, consider whether your contracts allow variations or need to be varied to meet planned needs and ensure business continuity to avoid lost opportunities.