The BA is calling on its members to respond to the newly launched Department of Business, Innovation and Skills consultation on Sunday trading which runs until 16th September.
The consultation will explore plans to give local authorities the power to allow large shops to open for longer on Sundays, to help them compete with online retailers. Responses can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The existing Sunday trading laws prevents large stores from opening for more than six hours on a Sunday, while small shops of less than 3,000 sq ft can open all day.
Booksellers have noted some downsides to the new trading proposals, with Foyles c.e.o. Paul Currie warning that those who don't open on a Sunday could lose out.
Currie told The Bookseller: "When Sunday trading came in the view was that it would only spread existing sales, rather than add value. This seems to have been proved correct, it has not added sales, but if you don’t trade on a Sunday you will lose out. I suspect the same will be true of extended hours. The big step was recognising Sunday as a retail day in the first place.”
Waterstones m.d. James Daunt said: "Where I am concerned is the impact it will have on the high street, if the large Tesco out of town is allowed to open 24 hours when other shops won't have the capacity to do that." Daunt added that he didn't however think it would make a great differences to shops competing with online retailers.
Both bookselling chiefs said that, if adopted, the new rules would create a mixed picture across the country but that they would adjust opening hours according to demand.
Currie said: "The customer is the centre of what we do, so if there is a demand for longer opening hours on a Sunday we would respond accordingly. The proposed changes to Sunday trading hours are not a ‘one size fits all’ proposition. As a shopping destination, London’s West End will need to extend their hours to reflect the latent demand that is already there. When we close the doors at Charing Cross Road on a Sunday, there are still people wanting to shop, so it is likely that we would extend hours in our flagship London store.
"Our regional stores do not have the same footfall on a Sunday, so might not gain the same value. We wouldn't want to open in isolation nor without footfall, so our decision at each branch will have to be judged on commercial value, capabilities and results. We would react to needs and trends as they develop."
Daunt said: "It is up to the local authorities to decide and the local people and we want to do what our customers want. I think that will mean there will a varied picture across the country, in some areas we will open later, in others we won't. That is not difficult for us operationally because Waterstones stores are used to operating on an individual shop basis."
BA chief executive Tim Godfray said: "We are actively encouraging our council and membership to respond to this consultation so that the views from booksellers can be considered by the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills. The Booksellers Association is glad the Government is reviewing this legislation, and that the proposal is that any decisions to liberalise should be made locally and not nationally. The BA welcomes any measures that help level the field for high street bookshops."