Private retailers fight for Sunday trade advantage

By Leah Vyse

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Supermarket

Privately held retailers and convenience stores in the UK have
condemned a plan to extend Sunday trading hours, claiming it will
bring the industry one step closer to complete domination by
leading retail giants such as Tesco.

Currently small shops in the UK can set their own Sunday opening hours but stores that are more than 280 sq metres (3,000 sq ft) in size cannot open for more than six hours on Sundays.

But following retailers' claims that Sunday is now one of their busiest days, the UK's Trade and Industry secretary, Alan Johnson, has announced that he will carry out a cost-benefit analysis to extend Sunday trading for larger stores.

Analysts predict that if the changes go ahead, they would permit opening hours similar to bank holidays, from 9am-6pm.

Ben Pinnington of the UK's Forum for Private Businesses (FPB) says the plan will damage sales at smaller store operators, who are already losing market share to the 'big four' British retailers. Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys and Morrisons currently control 74 per cent of the grocery market.

"We are resolutely opposed to retail giants expanding even further. This is one of the few areas of the law where high smaller shops are at an advantage,"​ he told FoodandDrinkEurope.com​ .

"Tesco has a profit margin of £2 billion (€2.8bn), it doesn't need to grow anymore. They are growing too fast and getting too big for their boots."

The Association of Convenience Stores is also opposed to the extension of opening hours for supermarkets.

But market data suggests that larger retailers will be pushing for the change. According to TNS Superpanel data, approximately 9 per cent of money spent in supermarkets goes through the tills on Sundays with fewer households shopping on Sundays than any other day of the week.

However what the consumers spend per trip is slightly higher on a Sunday than other days of the week. Larger stores also take more as a percentage of total weekly sales on a Sunday than smaller stores.

A Tesco spokesperson said: "We believe that it is right that this issue is being looked into. Consumers have changed since the current trading hours were introduced."

"We all try and pack more into a weekend and this would mean we would have greater flexibility."

Worker's union USDAW and the Keep Sunday Special campaign have also condemned the proposed move.

USDAW is concerned that its members may be forced into working on Sundays because of the increase in demand for staff.

The Keep Sunday Special (KSS) campaigners are concerned that any expansion of opening hours would take away precious family time of those required to work the extended hours.

Speaking on behalf of KSS, Nicola Templeton told FoodandDrinkEurope.com:"Large conglomerates are pushing their own agendas, seeking to get more out of employees."

She said that "bottomless pit" companies such as Tesco and Asda "are bullying the British government in order to get a larger market share. They want more and more profit while 1.4 million parents feel forced to go out to work on a Sunday instead of spending time with their families."

Tesco claims that all of its employess have the right to opt out of working on a Sunday. Those who do work on a Sunday are paid 1.5 times the standard wage.

Asda also claims to be responding to what its customers want. "Sunday is one of our busiest trading days,"​ a spokesperson for the UK's second largest supermarket said.

Related topics: Market Trends

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