The suspension of the Sunday Trading Act 1994 for eight weeks around the period of the Olympic and Paralympic Games has now kicked in. Sunday shopping hours are thus deregulated in England and Wales, permitting large stores to open for more than six hours on Sundays for the first time. The Government’s rationale has been to demonstrate to the world that Britain is ‘open for business’.
However, opponents of the move have claimed that this is the ‘thin end of the wedge’ and could well be a prelude to a permanent change in the law. This fear is given some credence by an Ipsos MORI poll published on 30 July 2012 in which 36% of respondents indicated that they favoured the Act being amended for good. 52% were opposed and 12% undecided. 999 Britons aged 15 and over were interviewed face-to-face on 6-12 July 2012. The data tables can be found at:
The results varied significantly by age, with 50% of the 15-24s wanting to see a permanent change in the law, and only 35% against. This led Ipsos MORI to forecast that reform ‘may become inevitable sooner rather than later as the current younger generation of shoppers matures’. In contrast, older Britons preferred the status quo, just 28% of the 55-64s and 21% of the over-65s endorsing permanent legislative amendment (63% and 66% respectively against).
Although groups wanting to keep Sunday special have argued that allowing large stores to trade on Sundays without restriction would undermine family life, the Ipsos MORI data reveal that those with children in the household are actually more likely (42%) to be in favour of permanent extended hours on a Sunday than those without children (33%). ‘Perhaps this is because for today’s generation of families, shopping at the weekend has become a leisure activity in itself for the whole family, as opposed to just an essential chore …’
Apart from older people, opposition to long-term change in the Sunday Trading Act was stronger among women (57%), the top (AB) social group (56%), the highest (£30,000+) income earners (56%), residents of Southern England outside London (64%), and shoppers whose main supermarket was Sainsbury’s (61%). Londoners (41%) and shoppers at Asda (42%) or Morrisons (41%) were particularly supportive of permanent change.
The overall pro-reform lobby of 36% is consistent with the 37% obtained by ICM Research in its telephone survey for the Sunday Telegraph on 22-23 March 2012. Men, the 18-34s, and Scots were then most disposed to relaxing the law after the Olympics and Paralympics, while opposition (56% overall) peaked among women (63%) and the over-65s (64%). Detailed findings are at:
For other polls on Sunday trading and the Olympics, see BRIN’s coverage at: