This year’s Budget may well be remembered in the wider media as all about George Osborne cutting taxes for his wealthy friends, but it’s a wedge of a different kind that we in the small store industry will remember it by.
The decision to relax Sunday trading laws for the period of the Olympics is both alarming and unnecessary. The Chancellor was quick to point out that he didn’t want a ‘closed for business’ sign over Britain while the Olympics were taking place, but that doesn’t explain why the whole country has to be exempt from the Sunday opening law, which is the only piece of legislation on the books specifically skewed in small stores’ favour.
Why not just relax the law on the Olympic Park? Or just in London? And why, when existing legislation allows stores to open for six hours anyway, don’t large stores just open for the three hours before and after events?
We all know why: this issue isn’t about the Olympics, it’s about the thin end of the wedge. Sales are going to go up during the Games (we’d hope so, anyway), so after the event it can be represented as a great success. Therefore, the case for permanent deregulation can be made more strongly in future by those campaigning on behalf of large stores that are otherwise struggling for growth.
We need to stop them. The ACS is doing a great job to quantify the potentially catastrophic effect of Sunday trading liberalisation in sterling terms, so that MPs and civil servants have hard evidence to work with, but there is a lot you can do as well. About 25,000 copies of C-Store this week have a postcard inside for you to sign and send to the government in protest the NFRN has set up an online petition for you to sign and I also urge you to write or speak to your MP about the issue. Why not invite your MP to your shop, perhaps on a Sunday afternoon, so that he or she understands why this regulation is so important.