We’re astonished to report that it took a formal Freedom of Information request from your favourite fortnightly to get the government to reveal the results of its own Sunday trading consultation as part of the Red Tape Challenge.

We can see why the government doesn’t want this in the public domain, because it completely contradicts its own actions. The analysis of responses shows that there is overwhelming support for keeping the status quo on Sunday. Small traders and shopworkers were totally against extending trading hours, and even larger stores were at best ambivalent. (In the interests of fairness, it is worth pointing out that garden centres and DIY chains are in favour of extended Sunday opening, and I think we can accept the business logic there, but even the large grocery multiples are not convinced it will boost sales overall, instead of just redistributing sales in a more costly way).

Despite this, the government has chosen to ignore its own idea (the Red Tape Challenge) and its own interpretation of its results, and is pushing ahead with emergency legislation for the Olympic period. So what’s the point of taking part in a consultation? It’s an important question to ask at a time when we are urging retailers everywhere to take part in the latest one, on plain packaging. I realise it’s a difficult call, in the light of the Sunday trading issue and, before that, the farcical consultation on the tobacco display ban when the government funded anti-smoking groups to lobby itself.

But I can only offer the hopeful view, not the cynical one. If you don’t put your views forward, you may never get another chance. If you don’t think you have the time, we can do it for you, but you have to let me know what you think. I can’t promise success, on tobacco or on Sundays, but I can promise you that at C-Store we will do all we can to keep the pressure on the government to see sense.

Future proof

It was great to catch up with Nisa members at the group’s annual event in Stoneleigh last week and to get a progress report from the management. There’s no doubt that there has been an unprecedented amount of churn in the group with several large members selling up, but hundreds of smaller ones joining. There’s no doubt that this trend will change the dynamic of the group in future, and give even greater clout to the Nisa symbol group members both internally and in the market as a whole.

It was also intriguing to learn that the two key priorities identified by symbol group members - the development of a home-shopping web platform and the introduction of a shopper loyalty card - were not on the priority list for the management beforehand, but are now being fast-tracked. Fit for the future indeed.