Saturday, 25 August 2012

Time to Make Sundays More Special

Today is the eighteenth anniversary of the Sunday Trading Act and to celebrate

I am returning to that subject by reprinting my post from March this year.
On the 25th August 1994 the British supermarkets like Tesco which had been flouting the Shops Act conditions relating to trading on Sundays won a victory for bully-boy tactics. Since that date the Sunday Trading Act has permitted stores of more than 3000 sq ft to sell anything they choose for six hours between 10am and 6pm. This change was opposed at the time by Waitrose, M&S and House of Fraser amongst others The argument which won the day was that with so many women working the opportunity to buy groceries needed to be expanded: an argument John Major the Prime Minister accepted.
However,it is now possible to shop online and receive all your Tesco groceries at your front door at an agreed time. For those without a computer it is also possible in most parts of the country to shop in a supermarket non stop from 8am Monday to midnight Saturday so why do we need supermarkets open on Sundays at all? Surely the likes of Tesco have shot a hole in their own argument.
Some of you will recognise the above text from a few years ago but I am revisiting the subject because there is a proposal for the Sunday Trading Act 1994to be relaxed for eight weeks this summer to allow foreign visitors to spend more money here during the Olympics and Diamond Jubilee.  Whist I have no objection to a temporary measure such as this I suspect it will be the thin edge of the wedge.  It will of course be supported by the major supermarkets with equally spurious arguments as 18 years ago.  
Is it a co-incidence that Tesco has just posted the worst profit figures since 1994?  Recognise that date?  
Over the last six months Tesco sales declined 0.5% whilst Sainsbury's increased 1.9%
At 22 January the  market share of the  grocery trade was as follows
Tesco   -   29.9%
ASDA   -   17.5%
Sainsbury   -   16.7%
Morrisonss   -   12.3%
Co-Op   -   7.0%
Waitrose   -   4.3%  
Aldi   -   3.5%
Lidl   -   2.5%
Iceland   -   2.1%
The only one to have lost share was Tesco.
I expect the supermarkets will claim that opening all day Sunday will increase sales but how can that be?  Are people currently starving because they cannot shop all day on Sunday?   In the current economic climate it would be irresponsible to encourage unnecessary spending. By closing all supermarkes on Sunday costs would be reduced without affecting sales. And more people would be able to enjoy a peaceful family day instead of working.
I think it is time to claim back Sunday as a day for relaxation and contemplation by repealing the Sunday Trading Act 1994.
Perhaps Tesco would like to take the initiative and start closing their shops on Sundays after they have fleeced the foreign visitors this summer. If they also restricted the sale of Hot Cross Buns to the appropriate time of the year they might help to re-establish British culture rather than destroy it. 
As I suspected, there are suggestions that the relaxed regulations during the Olympics might be made permanent.  When will our representatives in parliament stop treating those who elected them as fools? 

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