There is a campaign brewing to reform the Sunday trading laws and scrap the 6-hour maximum that large stores can be open for on the day.

It’s a bit of an emotive issue, as no matter how much I try to think up some good reasons why changing the laws would be a bad thing, and there are some iffy reasons — the simple fact is that I like the idea that Sunday is special.

No religious reasons, and as someone who actually works most Sunday mornings, not an anti-work reason — it’s just nice to have a day which is just a bit different.

I could argue that smaller shops are struggling against the bigger ones, and giving them a small legal edge on Sundays may help them, but it’s a weak argument.

There is the religious lobby who argue that Sunday is sacred. But actually, in Christian doctrine, that’s a fairly recent idea, dating back no more than about 400 years. It comes from the Puritans, who scrapped the many holy-days, and replaced them with the weekly Sunday of rest.

There is the debate about forcing people to work when they don’t want to, but most of us work when we would rather not, and shift working and longer hours in the services have been around for decades.

So the arguments in favour of the current system are fairly weak, so why not embrace change?

It would add £20.3 billion to the economy over 20 years, claims the campaign. That sounds quite good, although that’s a billion quid a year in a 1.4 trillion pound economy. It’s such a tiny difference as to be beyond the scope of having any impact on GDP.

There are comments that its daft that a person can buy something online at 9am on a Sunday, but not in the shop. Well, at the moment at least, I doubt you’ll be getting the goods delivered within the next few hours, so if you need it urgently, off to the shops you go.

And unless we are talking toilet rolls or milk, do people really need the ability to buy clothing or a new TV at 9am on a Sunday? There’s no technical reason I can think of why the law should forbid them from doing so, yet, oddly I like the fact that we can’t.

I like walking down streets and seeing them empty occasionally.

I like the roads being a bit quieter, not just in less traffic, but more importantly, less noise from less traffic. Less pollution as well.

But most important of all, I like Sunday to be different. A break in the week where we can sense a very palpable punctuation mark in our daily grind. If Sunday ends up the same as Monday, we will have lost something intangible, but oddly important.

So, no I can’t give you a technical logical reason to keep shopping on Sundays special, and that annoys me. But I still want to keep things the way they are.

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I even quite like the annual anomaly of large shops being shut on Easter Sunday. In a modern world of fridges and freezers, we can cope without the supermarket for one day a year.

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12 comments on “Another attempt to reform the Sunday trading laws
  1. simhedges says:

    “There is the religious lobby who argue that Sunday is sacred. But actually, in Christian doctrine, that’s a fairly recent idea, dating back no more than about 400 years. It comes from the Puritans, who scrapped the many holy-days, and replaced them with the weekly Sunday of rest.” – No. Sure, many saints days were scrapped (the Puritans weren’t big on saints), but Sundays (the Sabbath) were holy before, during and after Puritain times, because its special status arose from the 10 Commandments as follows: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

  2. Simon says:

    For many people, the “Sabbath” is a Saturday. Should everything close then too?

    Anyway, I’m afraid I can’t agree with Ian here. The Sunday trading laws are an embarrassing throwback to the dark/superstitious/stupid ages when people were supposed to go to church on a Sunday. And, quite frankly, sod that.

    It’s a complete joke that e.g. House of Fraser can open up, but not actually serve you for a couple of hours. It isn’t “special” at all: it’s daft.

  3. Clive Bell says:

    Sunday as a different day is lost and the current rules are not that helpful in keeping it special. I am a Christian and would rather let this silly law go and instead find other ways to protect those who want to worship on sundays and not work all day. And for the general well being of the country why not have a few more days like Easter Sunday where the shops and businesses don’t open – we could call them Bank Holidays – now that would give us a few days where most people could have a break from 24hr culture.

  4. Anna says:

    I agree with Ian that it is nice to have a day in a week, which is quieter and more relaxed than others. It helps to slow down and get some rest amid increasingly fast-paced and hectic life.

  5. Penny Ward says:

    I feel exactly the same way about Sundays as Ian does. Nothing religious to it, just it’s so good to have a day that takes us away from the ordinary. I guess I’m a bit weird in that I’ve enjoyed power cuts the same way….

  6. Ed says:

    …what I very much dislike is the early opening (not if it falls on a Sunday) of stores on Boxing Day. some as early as 6/7am! If we follow the reasonings of opening on Sundays as any other day then surely Easter Day (Sunday) and Christmas Day will follow suit. Though there are special acts in place I think…?

  7. siper101 says:

    Religion and politics SHOULDNT be mixed. This is the 21st century and we no longer love in a country plagued by the idea of religion so our economy should follow suit. Sunday trading laws is an economical issue now and looking at it that way is a no brainer. Scrap them.

    • ianvisits says:

      As I noted though, my views about keeping Sunday a bit special is nothing to do with religion.

  8. tj pearson says:

    I’m fuming as trying to cook a full English breakfast for the family before the Grand Prix and United kick off and all that’s effected through this stupid minority supported law.
    I go to my local Saintsbury but closed as 9.45 and cant open till 11 so drive another 10 miles to Asda as I know they opens at 10. Race round getting all the shopping and done well because not with my wife so done in 10 minutes. Here’s the shock, I’m not allowed to pay until 10.30 because of this stupid law.
    If its religious based why should my hard worked deserved day off be effected because a minority choose to believe in some rediculous fairytale.
    I believe in staff having time off and laws for this but if I’m right and its because of some old fashioned hardly supported belief of a god I’m not surprised more and more people get stressed and depressed living in the UK.

    • ianvisits says:

      Do you live in a part of the UK where driving 10 miles to a supermarket is the only choice due to a complete closure of all the local corner shops?

  9. tj pearson says:

    Yes Ian,
    I’m one of them as forced into closing my carpet business 10 years ago through a certain shed retailer selling the same products cheaper but lighter weight, Trading Standards refused to back me and other small retailers.
    Bitter, yes I am, especially with trading standards being near non existent apart from monitoring these types of silly, non logical and irritating laws.
    tj

  10. MiaM says:

    If a special day is needed so badly, just choose another day. How about wednesday? That would be a great day to have everything closed as noone will notice unless they really aim for noticing it.

    It’s really bonkers this whole concept of shops being open when everyone else is at work, and the only closed (or shorter opening hours) day is when everyone else don’t work.

    It’s almost as silly as if there were a law that said that restaurants could only serve those who aren’t hungry…

    P.S. as a swedish citizen I’m used to shops being open everey day and I’m always a bit annoyed evereytime I travel to a country where evereything is closed (or has short opening hours) on sundays.

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