London 2012: Sunday trading laws suspended for Olympics

London 2012 shop window at Westfield shopping centre in Stratford Large shopping centres will be able to open longer on Sundays throughout the duration of the Games

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Sunday trading laws in England and Wales have been suspended until the end of the Olympics and Paralympics.

The government said being able to open longer on a Sunday would help retailers generate tens of millions of pounds in increased profits during London 2012.

Shop staff will retain the right to opt out of working on a Sunday.

But the Association of Convenience Stores said the big supermarkets would lure customers away from smaller shops, costing them millions in lost sales.

Under current legislation shops of more than 280 square metres (3,000 square feet) can open for a maximum of six hours on a Sunday, and only between the hours of 10:00 and 18:00.

London 2012 - One extraordinary year

London 2012 One extraordinary year graphic

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said larger shops would be "free to choose their opening hours on a Sunday" with "no restrictions on these hours" until the Olympics and Paralympics were over on 9 September.

In London, Westfield shopping centres in Stratford, in the east, and Shepherd's Bush, in the west, are opening between 11:00 and 21:00 BST throughout the Games period.

Wales's largest department store, John Lewis, in Cardiff, is opening an hour early from 10:00 during the Games. Its closing time of 17:00 remains unchanged. John Lewis said the majority of its other stores would be opening for an extra two hours.

Sainsbury's said it would extend Sunday trading hours in 30 of its supermarkets during the Games.

Waitrose said most of its shops would remain open for an additional two trading hours, with some opening earlier than usual and some staying open later.

And more than 160 Morrisons stores are set to stay open later, a spokeswoman for the chain said.

'Little return'

Chancellor George Osborne said the relaxation of the trading law would help maximise the economic benefits of the Olympics.

Shop workers' union Usdaw and the Keep Sunday Special campaign warned that the suspension could set a precedent.

Start Quote

I think this is going to be a really good test to see whether consumers want it”

End Quote Deirdre Bounds Entrepreneur

John Hannett, general secretary of the union, said: "Usdaw remains vehemently opposed to the deregulation of Sunday trading and we expect the government to abide by its commitment that this summer's temporary suspension will not lead to any further attempts to extend Sunday opening hours.

"The government failed to make a coherent business case for the suspension and there is no evidence that it will boost the economy or tourism.

"Extended Sunday opening won't put more money in the pockets of hard-pressed shoppers and with margins being squeezed and sales flatlining, the last thing retail needs this summer is increased overheads with little or no return."

Deirdre Bounds, an entrepreneur, also believes the move could pave the way for permanent change in the legislation.

She said bureaucracy was strangling businesses.

"If we want to go shopping at nine o'clock in the morning, six o'clock in the evening, why not? I think this is going to be a really good test to see whether consumers want it," she said.

'Fantastic opportunity'

The Union of Welsh Independent churches, which represents 450 churches in Wales, said that allowing supermarkets to remain open on Sunday evening would have an adverse affect on staff and family-run corner shops, "as well as destroying what remains of Sunday as a day of rest".

However, the government insisted it had no plans to relax the rules permanently.

Business minister Norman Lamb said: "The Olympic and Paralympic Games are almost upon us and you can sense the excitement building.

"This will be a fantastic opportunity to showcase, not just London, but the whole of the country to the rest of the world and provide a boost for the economy, sales and employment."

He added: "Retail workers will keep all their legal protections, such as the right to opt-out of Sunday working, but many will want to take the opportunity to work extra or different hours.

"I want employers to work with their staff so that we can all make the most of the Olympics.

"I want to make it clear that this is a temporary measure and not a test case for a permanent relaxation of the rules in the future."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    According to the BBC, 14% of people in England go to church. In Scotland it's 18%. Yet Scotland has liberal Sunday trading laws which let people enjoy a family day out and then do the weekly shop in the evening. As the stats show, liberal laws are not incompatible with attending church if you want. It's time English law caught up with Scotland.

  • rate this

    Comment number 418.

    I can see the point in London - visitors may also wish to shop there: I'm thinking the West End, Knightsbridge and major retail outlets like Westfield. But in the provinces? What exactly is the point of that??

  • rate this

    Comment number 417.

    People cannot spend what they do not have and opening longer will just spread out the spending. Osborne should try working in a supermarket on a Sunday. 6 hours is bad enough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 416.

    Jamer, you don't have to be religious to want a day off to spend with family.

    I wonder if you will be singing the same tune when your employers start leaning on you to work a 7 day week.

  • rate this

    Comment number 415.

    Trouble is, most people want time off - let's call them weekends - at the same time as their kids. As the Olympics are on during the school holidays, they can do their shopping/have days off at any time, not just the traditional weekends. That said, there is NO real reason why people needs shops open longer than they are now - and less would probably be even better!

  • rate this

    Comment number 414.

    404. Draigh
    We don't all need to have the same day off a week to enjoy some downtime or family time. People can enjoy family time on other days when they're off
    When the children are at school?

  • rate this

    Comment number 413.

    Slippery slope...

  • rate this

    Comment number 412.

    At Last! Sense prevails. Let's hope they keep this in place. We should all be free to make our own choices! Religion has always had too strong a hold over us. I have no problem if someone wants to worship fairies on a Sunday - just don't expect me to be restricted in what I do. Don't want to go shopping? Then don't go!

  • rate this

    Comment number 411.

    I work for a shop because the olympic torch was going though Ledbury. The extra shaff, was called in so more wages. but the expected rush never happened they made a bigger lose at the end of the day. adding 2 hour just mean the same amout will come in but 2 extra hour to pay staff.
    coffe houses and pubs will do well during Olympics

  • rate this

    Comment number 410.

    I totally fail to see the connection between the Olympics and wanting to go shopping on a Sunday evening. Although for those not bothered about the Olympics, it will give them something to do other than stare with disbelief at the BBC1 schedule...

  • rate this

    Comment number 409.

    Steve Williams
    Agree completely. Sunday doesn't NEED to have a religious significance for all - just time of unwinding and rest, when many family/friends can be with you if they choose. We should value the "Saturday afternoon & Sunday": our parents & grandparents worked hard enough to achieve it - and took us away from Victorian slavedriver employers. Cherish that time - don't devalue it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 408.


    What an ignorant comment to make. I take it you don't agree that workers are allowed to go on strike then in case you need them? As I said, Sunday isnt special to me, but there does need to be 1 day set aside where we're not being worked like dogs.

    This country is becoming more and more commercialist, the work til you drop brigade is infringing on more and more of our hard fought rights.

  • rate this

    Comment number 407.

    Horace Round.. if you go to Germany, France , Holland you will find most stores SHUT on Sundays, yes there are a few open, but most of the people there actually value their time off, and want a fmaily life, and it works fine, there is no need for the likes of ASDA / TESCO / SAINSBURY's to be open on Sundays at all !
    Just people with nothing better to do, 'need' a shop open !

  • rate this

    Comment number 406.

    If Sunday becomes just another day, no employer is going to pay time and a half or double to have you work on a Sunday.

    Being able to buy shoes 24/7 isn't going to raise quality of life. Its a way for the lizards to band together and strip more rights from you and ultimately more of your wealth.

    Lots of low paid workers rely on higher Sunday pay. Divide an conquer: the lizards are winning.

  • rate this

    Comment number 405.

    I have just arranged 5 coins in the Limpit Gains ensign.

    Did I just break the law?

    Ladies and Gentlemen, witness the emergence of government sponsored commercial terrorism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 404.

    400. Ciaran Donnelly
    "I don't care what day it is precisely, there needs to be one day set aside, where everyone can have a day off. "
    So you don't agree with going out for lunch or dinner on a sunday? Or seeing a doc? Calling an ambulance? The AA?

    We don't all need to have the same day off a week to enjoy some downtime or family time. People can enjoy family time on other days when they're off

  • rate this

    Comment number 403.

    We in a revolting, overcrowded, divided country where greed and self interest are the only factors that mean anything. Get used to it. Things are going to get even worse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 402.

    This shows that the government only care about money. Those who currently work in the retail sector and their families will be inconvenienced by this. They will be put under a lot of pressure to work on a Sunday.
    Instead of being a time to encourage and support our athletes in their quest to succeed at their chosen sport this Olympics is turning into a commercial roller coaster for the greedy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 401.

    these people complain about keeping a sunday as a special day but all my life i worked ihad to work as a chef and no one would have stood up for me and all these people expect to purchass petrol and other items so cant they just shut up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 400.

    I don't care what day it is precisely, there needs to be one day set aside, where everyone can have a day off. Whether its Sunday, Saturday, Friday,or even Tuesday I don't care. There needs to be a day for family time and respite.

    And none of this let the employer decide, because thats no use if one of your family's day off is Monday, while yours is Thursday. It needs to be on one day.


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