PAUL O’BRIEN: Outdated trading laws stifling the high street

Paul O'Brien
Paul O'Brien

Think back, if you will, to last year, when we voted in new MPs up and down the country.

I vividly remember the Scottish National Party taking seat after seat north of the border and gaining a huge voice in parliament.

I also remember rather well that the head of the party, Nicola Sturgeon, vowed not to interfere with matters that only affected England.

However, here we now are with the SNP voting to scupper plans for longer trading hours in England, a luxury that traders in Scotland already have with no rules stifling their Sunday trade.

The internet is slowly creeping up and affecting every high street up and down the country and even I was amazed when I ordered an item myself that could be delivered the same day.

We live in a culture of wanting to buy an item and have it almost straight away and our online competitors are slowly becoming as effective as hitting the high street for the day.

However, our one point of difference (at present) is Sundays.

We can give you, the shopper, an instant item on a Sunday whereas the internet cannot. It has become the growth day for people hitting the high street up and down the country and the current rules of only allowing the bigger stores six hours of trading are outdated and unneeded.

Sundays in Worthing are now almost as busy as a Saturday and, as a small shop, we need the bigger names to draw in the crowds which we feed off.

If they close their doors at 4pm then so do we, despite there being hordes of shoppers still around.

If they could stay open till 6pm, however, then so would we, allowing ourselves to steal a march on those big internet firms. To lose this ability to stay open longer to a vote from a group of MPs who will be completely unaffected is a complete farce.

Where does it go from here? I’m not to sure but it’s another little blow in the face of high streets who are struggling to compete with massive rents and rates bills compared to a large internet-only sales business hiring a huge factory with little costs.

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