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Plan to increase Sunday shopping hours in Britain

The British government announced plans to allow shops to open longer on Sundays to compete with online shopping and global tourist destinations like Paris and New York.

Finance Minister George Osborne said he wanted to give mayors and local authorities the power to decide Sunday shopping hours in his budget, which will be unveiled on Wednesday.

"It is clear that there is still a growing appetite for shopping on a Sunday," Mr Osborne said.

"The rise of online shopping, which people can do round the clock, also means more retailers want to be able to compete by opening for longer at the weekend."

A previous bid to reform Sunday shopping hours proved controversial and failed amid protests in 2006, and Mr Osborne’s plan is expected to meet opposition from unions and the Church of England, which has defended a common day off on Sunday as important for "family stability and community life".

Britain’s existing 1994 law prevents larger shops from opening for more than six hours on Sundays, a rule that was relaxed during the London Olympics in 2012.

Mr Osborne described the Olympics trial as a success and said there was a "growing appetite" for Sunday trading in high streets and retail parks, but said that the decision would be not be made nationally. "This won’t be right for every area, so I want to devolve the power to make this decision to mayors and local authorities," Mr Osborne said.

The Treasury has said that Britain has fallen behind as France recently relaxed its laws to allow shops to open more frequently on Sundays, while New York has no restrictions.

In Britain, shops larger than 280 square metres can open for a maximum of six hours between 10am and 6pm on Sundays.

Retail campaign group the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) said the change would force small shops out of business.

"Existing Sunday trading laws are a popular compromise that balance the needs of consumers, shopworkers, small stores and families," said ACS chief executive James Lowman.

"The short period of time that small stores are open while large stores are shut is a crucial advantage for convenience stores, most of which are owned by small businesses."

AFP

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