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Retailers hit out against extended Sunday trading hours
01.01.70 | Charlotte Williams
Sainsbury's c.e.o. Justin King has lined up with trading and Christian groups to criticise a potential government plan to make the Olympic Games extension in Sunday trading hours a permanent fixture.
Bookshops such as some larger London Waterstones and W H Smith stores have joined other retailers in opening later and longer during the seven-week Olympic Games period to boost trade, but plans to keep the relaxation in place have been slammed by Sainsbury's King as “not a magic answer to economic regeneration".
King was writing in a letter to the Sunday Telegraph, in which the Church of England and the Distributive and Allied Workers and the Association of Convenience Stores also expressed concern about the step.
The joint letter said that when the seven-week trading relaxation initially came in, MPs promised it would not become a permanent rule.
“Yet, just halfway through the eight-week temporary suspension, those assurances have been called into question,” the letter said, adding that longer Sunday trading would undermine small shops and family life, and bring little economic benefit. Chuka Umunna, Labour's shadow business secretary, has also warned against the permanent extension of trading hours, telling the BBC: ''You will just see spending spread over a greater period.''
Under current legislation, shops in England and Wales measuring more than 280 sq m (3,000 sq ft) can open for a maximum of six hours between 10:00 and 18:00 on Sundays. Sainsbury's has only extended opening hours at 30 of its 1,000 stores. Communities secretary Eric Pickles was quoted last week saying he would look into the impact of the temporary relaxation on trade, following lobbying from the Institute of Directors (IoD) to end Sunday trading restrictions.
Mark Wallace of the IoD said: "We know there are people out of work or underemployed who desperately want more opportunities and we know there is an appetite among consumers to shop during normal hours on Sundays, so it is silly to have a rule that holds both groups back."