The long-awaited consultation on the devolution of Sunday trading rules to local areas finally closed on 16 September 2015.
So what does it cover? Large shops (over 280 sq m/ 3000 sq ft) – which can currently only trade on Sunday for 6 hours between 10 am and 6 pm.
Why now? The proposal has been put forward in order to boost growth in the high street retail sector so it can compete with online business - which now account for 11% of retail sales.
What’s the plus side? Greater consumer choice plus more flexibility and opportunities for high street retailers seeking to compete against online competitors. And then of course there’s the carrot of increased employment.
The lobby group 'Open Sunday' claims that reform would bring in £20.3 billion over 20 years to the British economy.
And the negative? There are fears that smaller and independent businesses will be disadvantaged. Employees may not be able to opt out of Sunday working hours, and many feel that in this world of shopaholics, restricted trading hours have important social benefits. The devolved approach may also lead to different opening hours in different areas - a red tape nightmare for retailers and a source of bewilderment for shoppers.
The Keep Sunday Special campaign argues that the very concept of a weekend is rooted around the idea that one day a week is genuinely different.
What to check? If the new rules are passed, retailers will need to check (i) the rules for the relevant local authority (ii) their leases to ensure no contractual restrictions and (iii) restrictions in any planning conditions attached to the property. These checks will also need to be done when acquiring portfolios of retail assets in different locations.
Please contact Helena Liebster if you have any further queries or would like advice on these issues.