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.
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.