The current rules for Sunday trading in Northern Ireland came into force in 1997 and allow small shops with a floor area of up to 280 square metres (3,014 square feet) to choose their own Sunday opening hours but limit large shops with a floor area greater than this to trading between 1pm and 6pm.
The situation in England, Scotland and Wales is different. In England and Wales shops over 280 sq m. can open on Sundays but only for six consecutive hours between 10:00 and 18:00. In Scotland there are no restrictions and shops often open for long hours on Sundays.
We believe it’s time that Sunday trading laws were liberalised.
There are many potential benefits in extending Sunday trading hours, primarily economic. Countries with relaxed trading laws have seen a 7-9% hike in employment according to research conducted by the London School of Economics.
When it comes to tourism, many visitors to Northern Ireland must be baffled by our existing trading laws. Closed shops = lost sales opportunities.
For those retail employees who already work on Sundays, full liberalisation opens up the opportunity to work more hours – bigger wages and greater spending power.
A Recent Comres poll for OpenSundays.org found that 72 per cent of customers think they should be able to shop whenever is convenient.
Similar arguments can and have been made for relaxed licensing hours at Easter. Remember the outcry last year when many made the case for extending licensing hours on Good Friday. Expect the same response this year.
There are counter arguments of course regarding protecting works rights and any legislation must include rules to include adherence to current working time regulations and provide employees with a good work/life balance.
We believe that Northern Ireland is not only ready for extended shopping hours on Sunday but are demanding it. We are out of step with the rest of the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. We firmly believe that a liberalisation of existing laws does not threaten people with deeply held religious convictions but merely gives people with a desire to go shopping the choice to go shopping. We live in a 24/7 society – if people cannot shop in a retail environment they will instead shop online.
NI21 would like to see a more liberal, a more welcoming and a more encompassing society which respects the views of everyone.
What do you think?
We’d love to hear your views.