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Independents could lose out with new trading hours

In the post-election Budget, the Chancellor announced plans to extend Sunday trading hours for retailers in the UK, but according to a top accountant, independent grocery retailers in particular stand to lose out as customers choose to continue their custom elsewhere.

The Chancellor has announced that retailers, with physical stores of more than 3,000 square foot, are now freed from laws that prevent them from trading for more than six hours on a Sunday. But independent stores and online shops were always free from those laws, meaning that smaller retailers could struggle as the larger stores can now enter the playing field.

Once shops closed early on a Sunday, people were only left with the option of shopping at their local convenience stores which can be pricier than their larger retail counterparts – the price of convenience. Not only do these smaller retailers stand to lose out to the competition as their customers continue to shop for cheaper prices, but this could also see the market shift back away from smaller retailers who in recent years have preferred to shop more locally at their convenience.

Phil Mullis, head of retail and wholesale at top-20 accountancy firm, Wilkins Kennedy, said: “Small scale shops are leading growth on the high street, experiencing an 8.1% rise in sales since 2013, compared to a 2.6% rise from larger retail businesses as people’s shopping habits change. No longer are the extensive warehouse-style supermarkets catering to the time-poor shopper that needs to nip in for a quick meal after work or evensong.

“The trading hours could create a U-turn in shopper behaviour as consumers choose to shop for longer at the larger stores to benefit from lower prices over the independent convenience stores.

“The truth is, consumers can only consume so much – will we spend more because the stores are open for longer? It’s unlikely, but the chances are the independent stores will stand to lose out in the longer term.”

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