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Sunday trading changes ‘would not benefit many Island retailers’

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FURTHER relaxation of Sunday trading laws would encourage few town centre shops to open longer and probably benefit only large country businesses like garden centres, the head of the largest Channel Islands retailer has said.

Tony O'Neill

Last month it was revealed by the JEP that plans to relax the current rules, including proposals to allow larger retailers to open more often on Sundays, were due to be released soon as part of the Economic Development Department’s retail strategy.

When contacted by the JEP, the minister, Senator Lyndon Farnham, said that any plans would help larger retailers offset some of the cost of the 20 per cent retail tax, which was imposed this year on the Island’s biggest stores.

At the moment only shops with a floor space of less than 700 square metres can open on Sundays, with larger shops able to open for five Sundays a year.

Tony O’Neill, the chief executive of SandpiperCI, said that he was ‘agnostic’ about whether further deregulation would be beneficial for retailers and pointed out that many shops were already able to trade on Sundays but chose not to.

‘It does seem to me that a fundamental piece of research has been missed in these calls for a complete deregulation of Sunday trading,’ he said.

‘All shops under 700 sq metres can legally trade on a Sunday now.

‘As stores under this threshold represent the vast majority of retail outlets in town, I would have thought the first step in any evaluation was to ascertain why virtually all of the shops in the town centre that could currently trade on a Sunday chose not to.’

He added: ‘Many stores in the town centre did open when the change in legislation took place several years ago, including many of our brands.

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‘Due to a lack of demand, outside of the peak season, most of our shops that could trade on a Sunday have now closed and I can’t see that changing irrespective of any changes in legislation. I’m not aware of any consultation that has taken place to verify if this is the reason most shops who could still trade do not open.’

Mr O’Neill said that he believed the only stores that would benefit from extended opening hours at the weekend would probably be garden centres and DIY stores which were not located in town. ‘There are the issues about adding costs into retail operations when the cake is only so big, not to mention being able to find people willing to work on more Sundays,’ he said.

‘Outside of the issue about keeping “Sunday Special”, my sense is that the main beneficiaries of any change will be garden centres and DIY shops that don’t trade in the town centre anyway.’

SandpiperCI runs a number of franchise stores in the Channel Islands, including Burger King, Marks and Spencer and Morrisons Daily.

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
author

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