Bestway Wholesale managing director Dawood Pervez Bestway Wholesale has raised his concerns over proposed relaxation of sunday trading laws, with an open letter to The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak.
Adding his voice to concerns other industry figures, he explains that although the government is clearly looking at how to boost the economy in the wake of the pandemic, and whilst the major focus is on general retailing and clothing, it is inevitable that the food and grocery markets – and in particular the convenience retailing sector – will be impacted.
Bestway calls for balanced approached from suppliers
The letter reads:
I will keep this brief; I know you have a lot on. But as managing director of Bestway Wholesale, the UK’s largest independent wholesaler which supports over 40,000 convenience stores, I ask you to review the Government plans to suspend Sunday trading laws.
I noticed that this measure was being proposed as a way of boosting the economy as we open up after the Covid-19 lockdown. Research indicates that without an influx of new consumers this measure would only divert trade away from smaller community-based stores to larger supermarkets, bringing no net sales growth, a potential decline in jobs because of supermarkets’ economies of scale, and fewer local convenience stores.
A study by Oxford Economics commissioned by The Association of Convenience Stores analysed the relaxation of Sunday trading rules around the time of the Olympics in 2012. It found that independent convenience stores within one mile of a supermarket lost around
£1,300 of their weekly sales. In terms of employment, the report found that if the relaxed Sunday trading regulations were made permanent, the independent convenience store sector would lose 6,800 jobs.
The report highlights this would be partially offset by job creation in large supermarkets, undermining local community shops, during a period when they have been playing an essential part in keeping communities fed and supported.
Whilst speaking to my customers on the matter, who are close to their high streets, I have understood that extending Sunday trading will not help high streets at all. It will just mean shops incur more costs to keep open for longer while competing for inelastic consumer spend. The sudden shift in consumer habits has led to an increase of footfall to local convenience stores during the past few months; we should be encouraging this engine of economic growth.
Many of my customers work every day, they appreciate shorter hours on a Sunday for well-earned rest. In a largely 24/7 society, I’m sure like me, you believe having one day of the week where shops close a bit earlier is a good thing. It’s not just frontline retail workers this decision affects. Longer opening by large stores will mean staff in transport, distribution, manufacturing, cleaning and security will also have to work more at weekends. Longer hours on a Sunday means they’ll miss out on sports and community events when they start again, time with their family and friends, the need to find childcare.
We have seen that whenever extending Sunday trading hours has been debated, it has been shown that there’s no real economic argument for doing it. This hasn’t changed now. For many years local stores have been facing soaring rents, rates and labour costs.
In the last few months they have stepped up to the challenge to serve their communities – it just wouldn’t be fair to move the goal posts now.
I am confident that there is a better way to boost the economy – suspending Sunday trading laws is not one of them.
Dawood Pervez, Managing Director, Bestway Wholesale