Retailers have slammed a suggestion to relax Sunday trading hours during the Olympic Games.

Speaking at a Retail Week magazine conference, business and enterprise minister Mark Prisk said “there was a case for looking at this,” adding that a possible announcement may come in next week’s budget.

If allowed, the relaxation would likely only affect London, rather than the whole country.

The law currenly restricts large stores (more than 3,000sq ft) to six hours trading on a Sunday.

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman urged the government to keep the trading laws as they are.

“Any relaxation even just for London during the Olympics would erode our existing, popular Sunday trading rules,” he said. “Retailers will benefit greatly from the Olympics and they do not need a few extra hours on three additional Sundays to do it. It is certainly not enough to justify eroding well established rules that have widespread support.”

If approved, the relaxation would set a dangerous precedent Lowman said. “If government makes this concession this time, the big retail lobby will be pressing for all sorts of exemptions for other events during the year and the whole principle will be undermined,” he added. “The government already looked at Sunday trading as part of their Red Tape Challenge and the response was overwhelmingly in favour of keeping the current regulations.”  

There have been several failed efforts made recently to relax Sunday trading regulations. In July 20110, 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 The Bill was given an unopposed first reading, but it was withdrawn before the expected second reading date of January 20 2012.

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