CONVENIENCE stores in Rugby are bracing themselves for tougher competition from supermarkets, after plans were announced to relax laws on Sunday opening times.
Plans to give councils the power to extend Sunday opening hours for large retailers were announced by Chancellor George Osborne in the budget statement on Wednesday (July 8).
But small business owners fear a fall in sales due to the competition from larger stores, forcing them out of business.
Ranjit Samra from Kingsway Premier Stores said: “This change is really upsetting to see. A lot of smaller businesses like ours have it hard enough as it is and now we have to face more competition. The pressure to make ends meet will grow and grow if these changes take place.
“We already have to compete on Sundays against supermarkets and we hope the council sees sense and doesn’t let larger business make it even more difficult for us.”
Chairman of the Warwickshire and Coventry Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Ian O’Donnell, said he hoped the decision-makers would stop to think about the local impact.
He said: “It is critical these local decision-makers include small businesses in the debate. Local businesses are at the heart of our communities and the ones most likely to feel the direct impact of these proposals. Their concerns should be listened to, before any decision is made.
“The FSB remains concerned about the impact of any change to Sunday trading rules on smaller retailers. As well as assessing the potential impact of these measures, the Government should be taking a wider holistic view to see what else can be done to support these businesses.”
A spokesperson from the Rural Shops Alliance added there was universal agreement that existing laws provided a “modest but very welcome boost” to smaller convenience stores on Sundays when larger stores are closed.
He said: “Allowing supermarkets to take business from small convenience stores on Sundays will have a negative effect on the viability of these shops in rural areas, and also on the existing Post Office network that they support.”
Research carried out in London found that extra opening hours on Sundays could create additional jobs and generate higher sales revenues. Trials across the country to increase Sunday trading hours have already proved a success – most notably in the Olympic Park during the 2012 games.
Restricted Sunday opening times were most recently revised in the 1994 Sunday Trading Act, which allowed smaller shops to open all day but held those over 3,000 sq ft to only six hours between 10am and 6pm.