Business and enterprise minister Mark Prisk has given short shrift to arguments that extending Sunday trading laws during the Olympic Games would cost independent retailers £480m.
Speaking exclusively to The Grocer this week after MPs voted in favour of proposed temporary changes to allow stores over 3,000 sq ft to open for more than six hours on the eight Sundays from 22 June to 9 September, Prisk said he didn’t believe the impact on small shops would be as bad as the Association of Convenience Stores had argued.
“I think they are being unduly pessimistic,” said Prisk, whose portfolio includes responsibility for small business. “They are trying to suggest that all trade during these hours will migrate to large stores and I just don’t buy it.”
Prisk also argued that as larger stores opened for longer, smaller stores could get a boost through increased footfall. “It’s not all about opening hours for small shops. These retailers attract customers because of the personal service they offer,” he said.
ACS public affairs director Shane Brennan insisted the figure it released was on the conservative side of its calculations. However, Prisk was keen to allay fears that the Sunday Trading (London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) Bill, would be the thin end of a wedge that could lead to a permanent change in the law or make it easier for similar temporary changes to be made.
“The Bill has a sunset clause that means as soon as it runs out it is wiped off the statute,” he said. “The Olympics is unique and we need to make the most of it.”
Meanwhile, a survey of independent retailers operating near the main Olympic venues, carried out for The Grocer by Retail Attack CBJWT, found that the overwhelming majority (78%) thought the Games would have a positive impact on their business.
However they were less convinced the Games would have a lasting legacy on their operations. Just 23% said LOCOG’s investment would leave a positive legacy in their neighbourhood, while 51% did not believe it would be positive at all. Just over half (52%) were also worried that not enough had been done to manage traffic disruption.