Sunday trading laws are expected to be suspended for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in this week’s budget.
Speaking to the BBC at the weekend, chancellor George Osbourne said: “We’ve got the whole world coming to London and the rest of the country for the Olympics. It would be a great shame – particularly when some of the big Olympic events are on Sunday – if the country had a closed for business sign on it.”
The suspension of the trading laws is expected to last for eight weeks from July 22 throughout England and Wales. Currently, stores over 3,000sq ft are only allowed to open for six hours on a Sunday.
Osbourne added that he hoped to see the proposal passed by Easter.
The suggestion of relaxed Sunday trading laws has drawn fury from trade bodies. Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said the suggested benefits will be dwarfed by the impact on local shops and that it will set a dangerous precedent.
“This will cost convenience stores £1,500 in sales per day, or £480m in total across the industry over the summer as big supermarkets drag trade out of towns and away from small shops,” he said. “The move will also cause job losses in convenience stores. We fear this is the thin end of the wedge, and that supermarket lobbyists will persuade the government to extend these provisions on a permanent basis.”
Shopworkers union USDAW was also against the suspension. “The government’s own consultation just last year showed there is no widespread support from either retailers or the general public for change,” said general secretary John Hannett.
There have been several failed efforts made in the past two years to relax Sunday trading regulations. In July 2010, several high street chains appealed to the government to amend the trading laws for Boxing Day as it fell on a Sunday.
Last summer, backbench MP Mark Menzies suggested in a Ten Minute Rule Bill debate that the laws be relaxed for the duration of the Olympic Games. The Bill was given an unopposed first reading, but it was withdrawn before the expected second reading date of January 20 2012.