Following the implementation of relaxed Sunday opening hours for supermarkets over the Olympic period, the government is now considering making the changes permanent.
Those in favour of the plan suggest that the decision to allow supermarkets to choose their own opening hours would meet consumer demand, as well as providing more working opportunities across the country.
As it stood before the beginning of the Olympic Games, supermarkets whose floor space amounted to any greater than 3,000 sq ft had their opening hours restricted to six hours between 10am and 4pm. As the government anticipated an increase in consumer demand during the seven weeks spanning the games period, rules were relaxed and supermarkets were able to choose their own opening hours.
Since the government announced that it was considering taking moves to make the changes permanent, the plan has come under widespread criticism. Shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna, has been at the forefront of the debate, insisting that an extension of opening hours would not lead to a greater amount of business; rather it would simply see sales spread out over a longer time span. The Shadow Business Secretary cited a lack of demand as the primary reason the economy is struggling to grow, explaining that the extension of shopping hours would do nothing to address this issue.
A letter sent to the Sunday Telegraph, written jointly by the Bishop of Oxford, the general secretary of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers and the chief of the Association of Convenience Stores agreed with Umunna’s criticism of the plans:
“The last thing the retail sector needs is increased overheads for little or no return … longer hours won’t put more money in the pockets of shoppers.”
While the move is likely to increase the hours seen for some on the online payroll, this is not necessarily sure to boost the economy.
One of the most senior figures within the retail sector to enter the debate is the top dog at Sainsbury’s, Justin King.
King dismissed the plans, explaining that it wouldn’t be a “magic answer to economic regeneration.” With members of the church and workers’ unions unhappy with the government’s plans, and the head of one of the UK’s most ubiquitous supermarket chains refusing to acknowledge any positive impact on his cashbook system, the government will have to look closely at the facts before making any decision on the matter.
This article has been written by Ian Perry – sales account executive at Seesbury’s Ltd
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