Sunday, August 31, 2014

Opinion: Have trading laws ruined Sundays?

It's been 20 years since the advent of Sunday trading, but shopping on the 'day of rest' remains a contentious issue. Our writers report from either side of the divide.

Last updated: 29 August 2014, 08:58 BST

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It's been 20 years since the Sunday Trading Act gave shops in England and Wales the right to trade on Sundays.

Amid calls from retailers to further extend Sunday opening times, we asked a couple of our writers whether trading laws have ruined Sundays.

Here's what they said.

YES: Bring back the nothing days! - Carla Challis

Afternoon naps. Spending all day in your pyjamas. Crumpets by the fire. These are the things I remember about life before Sunday trading.

I miss those days of having no reason to leave the house. Days where you could legitimately sit on the sofa all day watching films because, hey, what else was there to do?

As a family, we’d all stay within the vicinity of the house and garden, a secluded little unit that was content to stay put.

We’d always have a roast dinner in the early afternoon. We'd then cuddle up on the sofa to watch You’ve Been Framed and finish off a thoroughly leisurely day with crumpets around the fire and an episode of London’s Burning.

Then, disaster!

Trading rules changed and my mum started working in our village shop.

Being part of a chain, it opened on a Sunday and, lo and behold, mum’s hours included working every single Sunday. (Which she still does, by the way.)

This immediately broke up our little Sunday fun day and put an end to our weekly roasts, the family games, and all the extended relatives popping in for a cuppa.

Sunday trading changed our family dynamics - one major part of our little four-fold was missing and it has never been the same since.

Bring back the nothing days, I say.

We have busy enough lives as it is, and with online shopping so easy and simple, surely we could have one day back.

Just one day to spend together without feeling guilty that we should be doing something else - like wandering aimlessly around a shopping centre in the muted knowledge that we've forgotten how to entertain ourselves.

NO: Why should Sundays lie fallow? - Michael Moran

Only those aged over the age of 50 can recall the stultifying dullness of Sundays before Sunday trading began.

When you have only two days off a week, and one of them is spent listening to the slow tick of the clock as you wait for it to be late enough to have a bath, that isn’t a weekend - it’s an endurance test.

A dwindling number of people still attend church services on Sundays, and good luck to them.

But even parishioners of the most verbose vicar can only fill an hour in church. Before Sunday trading, the rest of Sunday would yawn emptily, waiting for the decent telly to start up again in the evening.

In 2014, we live a 24/7 existence. There are people delivering our shopping at 8pm in the evening. There’s rolling news on TV at all hour of the day or night. Some kindly soul is updating our favourite website so there’s always something new and diverting to look at.

And when do these van drivers, newsreaders, and website-updaterers get to do their own shopping? Or, indeed, muck about on the internet?

A civilised society offers its bounty to all its citizens, not just to the ones who are lucky enough to keep regular hours.

For people who work a six-day week, making it impossible to shop on Sundays is a genuine inconvenience.

For Britons who keep their own Sabbath on Friday - or Saturday - it’s just confusing and weird for us to insist on letting Sunday lie fallow.

And for people like me, who remember The Navy Lark and Jimmy Clitheroe, the demise of Sunday trading would be an unwelcome voyage back into a cruelly boring existence we thought we’d left behind for good.

Over to you: should shopping and Sunday go their separate ways? Share your thoughts below!


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