Thursday 16 July 2015

Sundays, bloody Sundays.

Sunday Trading is up for review.

This was a battle lost long, long ago. I was one of the first who was 'forced' to work Sundays. The quote marks because the law said no one could be coerced into working on a Sunday. 
The reality was if you didn't you didn't get the job. Those new fangled out of town shopping centres springing up in the early 1990s decided to open their doors on a Sunday and so did anyone wanting to work for one of their tenants. 
Just about possible to be a staff member without working Sundays. Plenty of Weekend and Saturday workers in those days. But for any sort of management role..Sunday working was required.

The unions were utterly ineffective and the government, mindful of the defeat it had had in 1986, opted for the daftest law it could conceive. Large stores that wanted to open were restricted. Small stores that didn't want to open were permitted. Even more foolishly the Church managed to make their priority day, Easter Sunday, a day of closure, by law, for all. But they forgot to include the nation's actual priority day, Christmas Day.
As Christmas is the peak trading time for retailers, there has been an erosion of the two days free from work. Many shops now open on Boxing day. Its compulsory to work as its simply a Bank Holiday that will be required to be worked if deemed necessary. As is New Year's day. As is Christmas day. And the Church attempting to 'keep Sunday special' was always doomed to failure.
A worker couldn't nip out for a roast dinner. Couldn't attend Church before going to work. Couldn't pop round the in-laws to take the children up the park. Sunday, for shop workers, became just another day. Albeit with a lie in.

Stores that began opening back in 1994 faced a very uphill struggle. A Saturday's trade would be equal to three normal days. A bank holiday caused panic amongst shoppers fearful of 'running out.'
Shops that opened on Sundays were ghost zones. Maybe only 10% of normal business. 
It took a good five years before stores broke even and perhaps ten before they showed a profit.
But eventually Sunday became the second busiest day, even on shorter trading hours.
{I remember doing a study of 50 of my regions stores in 2000. The 15 that were closed on a Sunday were just as profitable as the worst performing 15 that were open. Due to much lower running costs.
And they were far, far easier to manage.}

Nowadays, the odd Sunday Trading laws make even less sense than they did when introduced. The internet is a 24 hour place. The challenge for the big e-tailers is how to get their sold goods into the hands of their customers. Longer opening is one way. The High Street has not recovered from the financial crash and the rent rampages of the the 1990s and millennium years. It struggles with its excessively high costs against the online seller with minimal outlays. 
So a relaxing of a restrictive timeframe would be welcomed.

I would just urge the Church to remember to insist Christmas day must have all shops closed by law.
Or in ten years time they will be discussing having free wifi and a parcel collection point to try and attract people to their own big day.


Anonymous said...

Shops that opened on Saturday were ghost zones.

Shurley shome mishtake?

Nick Drew said...

when I lived in Germany in the mid '70s, big stores were only open at the weekend for one saturday per month - and only in the morning at that

hard to believe, really

Bill Quango MP said...

Thank you. Corrected.

I almost quit at having to work Sundays. Avid Grand Prix fan. In the end the firm agreed to add BBC to the shop euro-tv package and paid the necessary licence fee.
It was that quiet no one cared whether I was working or watching TV.
But Sunday trading was in the lease so shops had to remain open and empty.

James S said...

Couldn't agree more. Ditto (albeit to a lesser extent) the NHS reforms. I guess the shops would argue that they would struggle even more to compete with online sales.. but at what price the erosion of family time for all of these workers ? Feels like our cousins over the channel have called this one right.

Blue Eyes said...

With GPs I have argued with my GP friends that us workers would like wider opening hours before Sat/Sun opening.

Shopping: look, in a free market employers and employees ought to be able to sort this out. If there aren't as many willing to work Sundays then the Sunday wage ought to rise of its own accord.

It does make me laugh at the left's reaction. Five minutes ago they were twatting on about under-employment, but as soon as the evil Tories offer an opportunity for ordinaryhardworkingshopworkers to get some more hours in, they go apoplectic.

As a consumer I welcome 24/7 opportunties to go to the big Tesco, so that the once a year I need a fresh baguette at 4am on a Sunday morning, it is available. Let demand dictate that, rather than the state.

I once got stuck in Bilbao on a Sunday (my fault, I had booked a rather stupid journey). Not even a bloomin' café to sit in. It was rubbish. Bla bla family time aren't the continentals better at this: no. Nobody is forced to work in retail.

Blue Eyes said...

*Wider opening hours on weekdays, obvs.

dearieme said...

We used to giggle at the inanity of the English discussions about what would happen if shops were allowed to open on Sundays. All the twits had to do was look at how it worked in Scotland where it was even possible to visit some Building Society branches on a Sunday.

Electro-Kevin said...

Blue - would anyone volunteer to work in retail if they had any choice ?

I've always worked weekends and bank holidays but that's part of my job. If people are going to insist on others staffing non-essential shops and restaurants on Sundays (voluntary ? Pfff !) then it seems rather hypocritical for anyone to demand that they can have them off.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Parliament could work on weekends too, an expensive resource unused 2 (or more) days/week seems pretty poor economics. Then there is quality control, could do with a bit of that too. Westminster 24/7 should help the country grow...

SumoKing said...

what dearieme said

Laban Tall said...

Yet Germany and France seem to manage pretty well - I wonder did Sarkozy ever get to change the laws ? It was certainly on his to do list. I love French Sundays.

It cracks me up that the Government which witters about making the Commons and Lords more family-friendly (no more late-nighters) and has huge holidays for MPs simultaneously wants schools and GP surgeries to be open 8am-8pm (and at weekends for the GPs).

Peter Hitchens' "The Abolition of Britain" seems more and more of an epitaph.

Bill Quango MP said...

Its too late to turn our clock back.
And the UK embraced the internet faster than any society outside the USA and the Far east.

France and Germany have a while to wait before their online begins to eat away the High Street.
As an example, when I very first warned that it would be only about 10 years before online sales exceeded high street, it was only 2006.
In 2013 the UK had the highest online spend per person in the world. Just behind Australia.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

What dearieme said.

Everything's* been open on Sundays for ages in Scotland and the world hasn't come to an end.

Get with the plan, this is the 21st century.

* Except the envy of the world, obviously.

Bill Quango MP said...

UK stores are open on Sundays . But for only 6 hours over so many sq feet.
So any large store only has a 6 hour trade day.

The change will be minimal. Will increase business a small amount.
That's why it should be done.

Because its quite ridiculous not too.

Its like our old Sunday pub laws. Supposed to end after world war one that no government got around to repealing until the 1990s.

Blue Eyes said...

BQ, I am pretty sure that the first Sunday on which pubs were allowed to open through the day marked THE ABOLITION OF BRITAIN.

Actually, hasn't Britain been ABOLISHED several times over by now? Section 28, decimalisation, conversion to natural gas, compulsory seatbelts - I could go on - each marked the END of our proud nation AS WE ONCE KNEW IT.

Blue Eyes said...

Oh crap, I forgot FLUORIDATION.