New rules to allow supermarkets to open longer on Sundays could see many communities losing their local independent shops, warns the Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD).
FWD members supply and support about 72,000 food and drink retailers, for many of whom extended opening hours once a week provide a valuable advantage which helps them to survive. These stores are important in ensuring a range of choice for consumers and the vitality of our communities and high streets. They provide invaluable service in rural and remote areas beyond the reach of the national chains.
However, new plans announced as part of the Enterprise Bill to let local councils relax the current restrictions and allow bigger stores to open longer will be hugely detrimental for under-pressure independents.
FWD believes that allowing larger stores to open for longer on Sunday will lead to closures among independent shops, reducing diversity on the High Street and depriving communities of the unique, family-run shops that give their neighbourhoods character. These closures would also threaten the profitability of the wholesalers who supply 400,000 retail and foodservice businesses.
FWD chief executive James Bielby said: “2016 is shaping up to be the year the Government turns its back on small shops. They will be disproportionately affected by the introduction of the National Living Wage as well as automatic pension enrolment, and now this small legislative advantage they have over the big stores is under threat.
“As the supply chain partner to independent retailers, wholesalers do all they can to support independent businesses and help them provide services to the public that can’t be matched by the supermarkets. Extended trading hours on Sunday for smaller shops is a way for the Government to demonstrate the same support. A change to the law will benefit large out-of-town retailers.
“There is no evidence to suggest that the public want Sunday to become the same as every other day, with more than 60% supporting the status quo. Nor is there any evidence that the economy will benefit from longer opening hours – the result of the temporary relaxation in 2012 was that sales spread over the longer period rather than increasing, with sales in convenience stores declining by as much as 7%.”
We’ll have more on this story in the February issue of Wholesale News.