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News - 26 August 2004

Sunday Shopping, ten years on.

It is the 10th anniversary since the Sunday Trading Act came into force and the face of the British weekend was changed forever. Was it a good thing for Brighton?

At the time there was considerable enthusiasm from the large multiple retailers and considerably less from the Unions, church groups and most of the independent retail sector, the owners of which were already spending six days a week running their shops. The economic theory of the time suggested that more opportunity to shop would equal increased turnover and profits for retailers. Over the past ten years consumer spending has indeed increased but it is largely on borrowed money (see earlier stories in the Knowledgebase). The increased turnover was not as great as many had hoped and for a lot of independents it is a very fine line between extra takings on Sunday and extra overheads opening for a seventh day. Nevertheless, despite shorter opening hours, Sunday is now generally the second best trading day and the over-riding reason to open has become customer expectation and maintaining market share. Basically if a shop doesn’t open on Sunday shoppers will go to another one that does. Was it a good thing? Was it a good thing for Brighton? The first question is too big to answer in a hurry, the second is easier. Brighton was already well established as a destination before the Act came into force but the opportunity to combine shopping on a Sunday with a trip to the sea certainly strengthened our offer and made us more appealing as a weekend city break. Of course the same was true of all the other coastal towns, which similarly enjoyed the freedom to offer Sunday trading. The difference was that Brighton had the largest collection of some of the most interesting independent shops in on the south coast.

Despite the continued activity of the Keep Sunday Special Group, it is now firmly fixed in the nation’s psyche as a day when you can consume if you so choose. Dire predictions of the breakdown of family values can’t really be laid at the door of Sunday trading and it has generally been a good thing for our city.

It remains to be seen whether the same will be said of 24 hour shopping and 24 hour drinking!

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