Retailers played a key role in defeating the government on Sunday trading last week and highlighted the value of political engagement, according to leading players in the campaign.
The proposals, which would have seen local councils given the power to remove Sunday trading hours in their local area, were rejected in Parliament by 317 votes to 286.
A number of retailers had lobbied their MPs tirelessly in an effort to halt the proposals, with the campaign taken right to the heart of Westminster.
High profile retailer Kishor Patel, who owns three Nisa stores in Hertfordshire, was quoted by his MP Nadine Dorries in the House of Commons in the pre-vote debate on 9 March.
“I want to speak on behalf of my constituents,” she told MPs. “Mr Kishor Patel…runs Nisa in Toddington in my constituency, where he has opened a number of stores.
“He is an amazing small retailer. He recently took a derelict pub in my constituency and turned it into a restaurant. He says that he does not want me to support the proposal in the Bill; he wants me to vote against it. His pub is at its busiest, with families enjoying themselves, on Sundays.
“Mr Patel also does not want me not to support the proposal in the Bill because of the impact on his small high street shops, which are valued by local communities. In my constituency, it is not particularly easy to get out to the big stores, so people depend on small high street stores.
“However, the situation would be quite different if the big stores were open all day, because people would make the effort to go out to the bigger stores or to travel into London, and that would have a huge impact on local shops in Mid Bedfordshire.”
Dorries was one of the 27 Conservative rebels who ended up voting against the proposal.
Kishor said the result could have been different without retailers’ lobbying. “It absolutely made a difference,” he said. “It’s important to keep things simple when engaging with MPs and councillors - present them with the facts and evidence to support your argument.”
He added that timing was crucial. “I made sure I reminded her two days before the vote. I tweeted her and she picked up on it.”
Elsewhere a number of c-store retailers participated in the mass lobby of Parliament on 29 February. “It was an incredibly worthwhile experienced,” said Spar retailer Paul Stone. Other retailers contacted their MPs and responded to the Sunday trading consultation.
Association of Convenience Store chief executive James Lowman said: “Retailers from across the UK played an essential role in ensuring that local MPs held firm in their opposition to the government’s Sunday trading plans.
“If retailers had not spoken up and made their voices heard by responding to the consultation, attending lobbies in parliament and building relationships with their MPs, we may well have seen a different outcome to the vote.”