Local shop owners say no to Sunday trading freedom for big retailers

Small business owners across the UK oppose Sunday trading law changes for large retailers,according to a survey by XLN Business Services, the small business specialist.This stands in contrast to calls by representatives of big businesses such as Lord Wolfson, CEO of Next,for the Sunday trading laws to be permanently relaxed following a Government-led 8 week relaxation for the Olympics and Para olympics over July and August this summer.
Currently, small businesses may choose the hours they are open on Sundays, whilst larger businesses (with over 280 sq m of floor space) may only trade for 6 hours between 10.00 and 18.00. The government is relaxing the Sunday trading laws for larger businesses so they may open when they like on the Sundays during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The government has stated this is soall UK businesses can benefit from the large numbers of tourists who will be visiting the UK during the summer months and not solely in London. Manchester will also see an influx of visitors as Old Trafford will hold olympic football matches.
When asked “Would you like the Sunday Trading Laws to be ditched forever after they have been relaxed for the 2012 Olympics?”49.4% of small businesses said they wouldn’t, compared with 31.1% who said they would and 19.4% who didn’t know.
“Small businesses cannot afford the labour costs incurred from Sunday trading, so we are not able to compete on a level playing field with our big competitors,” said small business owner Steve Harold, of Suffolk Pots. Suffolk Pots manufacture and sell English terracotta pottery. “This will squeeze our share of sales even further.”
“Our research reveals that business owners are worried that the suspension of Sunday trading laws during the Olympics will be the beginning ofa slippery slope towards permanent changes,” said Christian Nellemann, CEO of XLN Business Services. “There seem to be two main reasons for the opposition to permanent changes. Some small business owners make a lot of money on Sundays and are anxious about losing trade to big businesses, who currently can only trade for 6 hours.Other businesses,on the other hand, can’t open on a Sunday as it is the owner’s only day off and are worried about competition with larger, more flexible labour cashing in while they are having their day of rest. We would like the government to ignore the big business lobby and return things to the status quo after the Olympics and thereby protect small business owners.”
The question about Sunday trading was part of XLN’s Q1 2012 Small Business Opinion Survey. The survey polled 487 small business owners for their opinions on current issues, factors affecting their business and forecasts for the future. For example, business owners rated the number of customers which have visited their business an average 5.03/10 compared to 4.98/10 last quarter. This shows an increase in customers visiting small businesses from last quarters survey which may be down to factors including March’s heat wave. This spell of good weather in the UK hugely boosted retail sales as consumers began to buy clothing and shoes for the good weather as well as enjoying more excursions an days out. Moreover, the British Retail Consortium recently reported UK retail sales values were up to 1.3% thanks to demand for gardening and barbecue goods.
Overall, however, business sentiment for the last 6 months was low with business owners rating all factors affecting their business with an average 4.49/10, compared to last quarter’s survey which averaged 4.54/10.A variety of factors could be to blame for such a poor outlook on the last 6 months including a rise in utilities and petrol costs for both business owners and consumers,reports of slow growth amongst many businesses in the UK and the threat of a double dip recession with the UK economy shrinking in the final months of 2011. Besides all these there has been in addition the risk of the Eurozone crashing, which is worrying to many small export businesses in the UK and those that rely on tourism.
When asked to look forward over the next 6 months, business owners showed a flash of optimism regarding sales, with them rating their overall estimate of future of sales as 5.06/10 compared to 4.89 last quarter. This optimism regarding an increase in sales could be due to the upcoming Olympics and Diamond Jubilee, which may bring sales opportunities to many UK businesses. There is optimism that these celebrations will boost sales of products such as local and organic produce much as it did for last year’s royal wedding as well as aiding in the regeneration of East London during the Olympics. The optimism may also reflect easing credit conditions for business borrowers as some of the government’s recent moves to increase business lending bear fruit. Over the last five years business lending has been incredibly constrained, with many small business owners complaining that business overdrafts and loans were next to impossible to get. Relaxed lending criteria in this area could mean many business owners could expand over the next six months.
The overall picturere maining pessimistic, however,with all factors being rated a low average of 4.37/10, just slightly higher compared to last quarter’s survey which averaged at 4.30/10 reflecting the on-going economic difficulties in Britain’s high streets.Although there is a hope of increased sales during the celebrations in the summer, small businesses are worried that businesses in London, specifically larger companies, will benefit the most from the increased numbers of tourists, whilst smaller businesses see a minor boost in sales.
With many businesses struggling in the current climate, and in the aftermath of the Budget 2012 announcement, the government came in for criticism for not providing enough support for small businesses, with particular criticism directed at the failure of educating prospective employees. Overall, the current UK government received a rating of just 2.81/10.
Notes: Lord Wolfson article                   http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/business/business-news/relaxed-sunday-trading-will-give-next-8m-boost-7581031.html
For full results of the survey, please see:                  http://www.xlntelecom.co.uk/resources/survey/Q1_2012_survey.pdf
XLN is the small business specialist, helping over 130,000 UK businesses save money on telephone, broadband, gas, electricity and card processing bills, visit                www.xlntelecom.co.uk

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