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Gloucestershire Business News

Mixed reaction to Sunday trading proposals

Proposals to relax Sunday trading restrictions in an attempt to kickstart the post-coronavirus economy have been met with a lukewarm response.

The Government is believed to be exploring Sunday changes, which would allow larger supermarkets to open for more than six changes, as part of a package to offset a looming recession.

Sam Holliday, Gloucestershire development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "I think we all want to see positive moves to help get the economy moving again but this one really does need more thought because the dangers are obvious and the rewards less tangible.

"For big supermarkets with very large numbers of staff this may be an easier thing to do - although I doubt it will be very popular with their already over-stretched staff members.

"But for smaller, independent stores who are desperately trying to compete it may be impossible to stay open longer due to their staff size limitations which could put them at a huge disadvantage if this was a success."

He continued: "Beyond that, however, I am not entirely convinced it would be a success anyway.

"Just because shops are open longer it does not mean they will actually sell more and thus help the economy.

"As I recall there was a short term experiment with this before and from what I remember when visiting supermarkets after the traditional Sunday hours they were pretty empty which shows there is not a huge public appetite for this."

Kevan Blackadder, director of Cheltenham BID, was more in favour of the proposals.

He said:"Anything that can be done to help ensure businesses are open at times when their customers want them is to be welcomed.

"I think people have got used to Sunday being a normal shopping day and would welcome suspending the restrictions."

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said Labour would oppose plans to relax Sunday trading laws.

She told the BBC: "I'm not at all convinced this will actually help to get the economy back on track.

"This could hit out hight streets very hard at a time they are really struggling with coronavirus - I just think this is the wrong thing to do."

Current legislation allowing smaller shops to open all day on Sunday with larger ones limited to six hours have been in place since 1994.

Other measures are expected to include fast-tracking applications to serve food and drink outside which currently take at least 28 days. as well as making it easier for pubs to serve customers outside.

Mr Blackadder said: "Fast-tracking approval for businesses to serve food and drink outside is something that our businesses are particularly keen to see.

"Anything that can be done on this - particularly in the summer months - would be widely supported."

Planning restrictions to make it easier to change usage are also expected to be relaxed.

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