Supermarkets launch drive to extend Sunday trading hours

Leaders of the UK’s biggest supermarkets have come together in a fresh drive to extend Sunday trading hours in the lead up to Christmas, according to Sky News.

It comes as executives from major grocers, including J Sainsbury and Wm Morrison, are warning ministers that a pre-Christmas shopping rush could put customers at risk as the pandemic continues. 

Primary legislation is needed to enable supermarkets to operate for more than six hours on a Sunday, however, and past efforts to extend opening times have “drawn fierce opposition” from both MPs and retail unions.

An executive at one chain told Sky that the newly-launched bid was “not about our P&L but about customers’ health and safety”.

Another manager told reporters that ministers “haven’t said an outright ‘no’, but they have said it’s very difficult”.

Earlier this year, The Times had reported that larger supermarkets may be allowed to extend Sunday trading hours for a year under emergency legislation.

However, the proposal “attracted immediate opposition” from Conservative MPs, whilst USDAW also condemned the plans, calling it “a slap in the face” for key workers.

At the time, Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said: “Our members in retail are working long hours, in difficult circumstances and under a great deal of pressure, they need a break. It isn’t too much to ask for a shorter day on Sundays.

“Deregulating trading hours will put more pressure on shopworkers to work longer and cause further problems with finding childcare.” 

Lillis also wrote to business secretary Alok Sharma condemning the government for not responding to the union’s concerns about Sunday trading deregulation and failing to provide a proper strategy to help the retail industry.

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