Who asked us? Is it right to suspend Sunday trading laws for the Olympics?


It was my good lady wife that drew my attention to the subject of this latest blog. ‘Did you know that from this Sunday the usual trading laws have been temporarily suspended for the Olympics?’ I truthfully had no idea. In fact, almost everyone I spoke to this weekend did not know either – was it supposed to be a secret?

For those of you who also missed it, here are the links to some of the reports in the press

The Daily Mail writes:

The Government has lifted the Sunday trading laws for shops in England and Wales with a floor area of more than 280 square metres(3000 sq.ft) from this Sunday to the end of the Paralympics. The longer hours have been welcomed by retailers but are ‘vehemently opposed’ by the shopworkers’ union Usdaw who said that there is no evidence it will aid the economy. Chancellor George Osborne however, maintained it was a benefit to the UK and warned against Britain ‘hanging up a Closed for Business sign’ in a bid to encourage traders to seize the opportunity to boost the economy.

What interests me in this subject, is that it does not appear that all ‘stakeholders’ in this rather important decision have been consulted effectively. One group in particular – the good old British consumer – seem to have been ignored…….or if not ignored, their views on the situation have just been assumed.

In my opinion, when any organisation makes a decision that will effect a number of stakeholders in a process, they should consider the affect of the decision on all of them. In this case, the decision is not just one of commercial gain. I do agree that retailers have struggled in the toughest of economic climates, but their struggles are down to many factors – and not being able to open for extended hours is not likely to be the greatest. Not meeting customer expectation consistently is of far greater significance.

This decision has far greater impact on people – and as stated in the Daily Mail, in this instance I tend to agree with Usdaw. We live in the most convenient world ever known. If you want something, you are very likely to be able to get it – whatever the day, whatever the time. The current restrictions on shop opening have little effect on that fact. This also means that the hardworking employee, even one working within retail, is able to benefit from a few more hours rest at the weekend. Is that such a bad thing? Do we really need the shops to be open longer on Sundays?

But this decision also goes further than the workers. As I have already said, what about us? What about the consumer? What do we think of this decision? Did anyone ever ask us? It does not appear to be the case, although I am happy to be proven wrong on this. Yesterday we decided that we needed a number of things (food etc) late the day – it was after 5pm. Our local supermarket has not yet taken advantage of the relaxation in the Sunday trading law. Was it the end of the world? Of course not. There are thousands of smaller shops all around the country who already more flexible opening hours on Sundays. I went to a small local store and got everything we needed. If our local Morrison’s had been open, this smaller store would have lost out. Has anyone thought about what might happen to the smaller retailer?

When investigating comments online about this government decision, it does appear that views are mixed. Some thing the decision is abhorrent, others believe that it is the right thing to do in our modern 24 hour economy. It would just have been nice if the biggest group of stakeholders had been asked first. The next time your organisation makes a decision, just question whether every stakeholders (both internal and external) viewpoint has been considered.

What do you think about this decision? Do you agree? You are very welcome to comment on any of my blogs.

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