Sunday Trading and the Olympics

Chancellor George Osborne is expected to use his budget speech today formally to announce Government plans to introduce emergency legislation to suspend the Sunday Trading Act 1994 for eight weeks from 22 July 2012, during the period around the Olympic and Paralympic Games, in a move designed to signal to the world that Britain is ‘open for business’.

Sunday shopping hours would thus be deregulated in England and Wales, permitting large shops to open for more than six hours on Sundays for the first time. No public consultation on the matter is mooted. Although the relaxation would be temporary, the Treasury has indicated that it will regard the suspension as an experiment, quantifying the economic effects of deregulation.

In the first test of public opinion on the proposal, an online YouGov poll of 676 adults on 19 March has revealed that 31% of Britons support the temporary suspension of restrictions on Sunday shopping, but that an additional 35% wish to go one stage further and abolish them permanently. That leaves just 27% endorsing the status quo and opposing any temporary change for the Games, with 7% undecided.

The strongest advocates of total, long-term deregulation are the Scots (46%), even though they already enjoy deregulated Sunday shopping themselves (since the Act only applies to England and Wales). Then follow residents of the Midlands and Wales (44%) and the 25-39s (41%).

Proponents of the current position, and thus resisting suspension of the Act for the duration of the Games, are particularly to be found among men, the over-40s, and Londoners. Of course, the attitudes of these demographic sub-groups may not only be conditioned by Sabbatarian principles but by a dislike of shopping (in the first two cases) and by anxiety about the extra disruption on the life of the capital (in the case of the third).

The full data table is available at:

The results of this survey are broadly consistent with a OnePoll study for The People on 23 and 24 February 2012, in which 33% elected for unrestricted Sunday trading, with, at the other end of the spectrum, 22% wanting to turn the clock back to the ‘old days’ when most shops were shut and a further 12% requesting large stores to be open for less than six hours.

However, a GfK NOP poll for the Association of Convenience Stores (which defends the status quo) on 26-28 March 2010 revealed 76% endorsing the current six-hour limit on large shops, and only 19% opposing it. Moreover, 52% of those opponents actually wished to see no Sunday opening at all.

Lovers of statistics (hopefully, we have a few reading this site) may like to note that this is the 500th post on the BRIN blog since the service was launched on 4 January 2010.


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