SHOPPING tills must ring until late every Sunday in the Christmas run-up to help the ailing retail sector, Ministers are being warned.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma is being urged to make a last-minute intervention to relax the trading rules to give stores a “fighting chance” of survival.
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Extra hours could also have a knock-on effect for nearby hospitality sectors if they are allowed to open from Wednesday (Dec 2).
Tory MP Nickie Aiken last night said: “Big retailers should be given the chance to spread more Christmas cheer by opening until late on the three Sundays in the run-up to Christmas.
“In this post-Covid world we need to support the sector which could have a knock-on effect for leisure and hospitality especially in city centres."
Non-essential stores have been closed ever since national lockdown measures were brought in earlier this month.
Aiken, who represents the capital’s West End and wants stores open until 8pm, said: “This is just a response to the way we live today.
“It’s slightly odd you can shop online 24 hours a day but you can’t browse or shop in a larger store after 6pm on a Sunday.
“There will be a mad rush to buy Christmas presents in those last few weeks so lets give stores a fighting chance of succeeding.”
The move for longer opening hours have already been backed by the British Chamber of Commerce and Marks and Spencer.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said “Whatever you think of Sunday trading rules in normal times, these are just not normal times.
“By increasing opening hours on Sunday on a temporary basis we give people more time to shop, meaning social distancing will be easier.
“This will help to protect customers and staff – who already put themselves and their families in risk because of their jobs.”
Larger stores are only allowed to open for six continuous hours between 10am and 6pm on Sundays.
John Longworth, Chairman of the Independent Business Network, said: “The days of Sunday being a closed day have long gone and it would make sense to allow shoppers to have more leisure time by relaxing the current restrictions.
“This will be especially important as we try to recover the economy post the Covid crisis.”
A Business Department spokesperson said: “The existing laws on Sunday trading still apply. We continue to have regular conversations with the retail sector and will keep measures under review.”
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