Sunday British Shopping Hours Confirmed to be Extended for London 2012

By Community | March 22, 2012

George Osborne, British Chancellor, has verified that Sunday trading hours will be extended for eight Sundays during the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics so that the British economy can take advantage of the huge influx of foreign visitors to Games.

Osborne made the announcement in the 2012 Budget today, where he said that all-day trading will be allowed for eight Sundays starting on July 22 and ending on September 9.

The Olympics take place from July 27 to August 12, while the Paralympics run from August 29 to September 9 and the Chancellor said that Britain need to make the most of the opportunities provided by the Games.

“We have got the whole world coming to London and the rest of the country for the Olympics,” Osborne said.

“It would be a great shame, particularly when some of the big Olympic events are on a Sunday, if the country had a ‘closed for business’ sign on it.”

Osborne will now push through emergency legislation through Parliament over the next few days in order to lift the six-hour limit on opening hours for larger stores over the eight weekends in July, August and September.

However, the move by the Chancellor has been criticised by some, who claim that it could pave the way for longer weekend opening hours on a permanent basis.

John Hannett, the general secretary of shop workers’ union Usdaw, said: “Our members are vehemently opposed to any further deregulation of Sunday trading hours and the Government’s own consultation on this just last year showed that there is no widespread support from either retailers or the general public for change.

“Any change would fly totally in the face of the Government’s commitment to be family-friendly. To suggest that the legislation, which allows shops to open for 150 hours a week, means Britain is ‘closed for business’ is ridiculous.”

The Church of England have also criticised the move as a spokesman said: “The Church would strongly oppose any further attempts to erode the special nature of Sunday, which legislation still reflects.”

Under the Sunday Trading Act 1994, large shops over 280 square metres in England and Wales are restricted to six hours’ continuous trading between 10am and 6pm on Sundays and cannot open at all on Easter Sunday.

Some major retailers have been lobbying in Whitehall for at least five years for the restrictions to be torn up.

The stores argue that 7,500 jobs would be created, generating extra money for the economy and the Government through tax.

Tesco, Asda, IKEA and the DIY chains have thrown their weight behind the campaign in the past.

Any change though, will alarm the owners of small stores, which can open all day on Sunday and benefit from the restriction on their large rivals.

But Confederation of British Industry director-general John Cridland said that the move to help Britain’s economy benefit from London 2012 should not be criticised if it does indeed prove a temporary policy.

“I think there is a big difference between a temporary measure to try and lock in some of the spending of the thousands and thousands of international visitors who will come to Britain during the Olympics on a Sunday and a permanent change,” he said.

“If it is a permanent change we would need to consult a lot of people, the shops themselves and the workers in those shops, but a temporary change just for the Olympics – every little helps.”