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Chancellor George Osborne has provoked an unholy squabble with Church leaders by announcing plans to scrap Sunday trading restrictions during the Olympics. Emergency legislation is planned to allow all stores, regardless of size, to trade around the clock for eight weeks from July 22nd until after the games close on 12th August.

The relaxation will apply nationwide but mainly benefit West End retailers and HM Treasury who estimate 100,000 Olympic visitors can be persuaded to support our retail economy. In contrast a poll amongst retailers and stallholders at Mudford-on-Sea – 200 miles from the Olympic stadium – confirmed they are less than enthusiastic about the new Mudford Tesco being granted a concession to open all hours whilst they still need to take a day off to go buying. Government sources claim cross-party support for the proposal with a LibDem spokesperson putting a spin on it by announcing: ‘This will stimulate growth as part of a Robin Hood budget’ without identifying who was Robin, Marian or the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Sunday is now the second most remunerative day of the week for HM Treasury.

Taking on the Church for the sake of Oxford Street is bold stuff – even Maggie Thatcher shied-away from unrestricted Sunday trading after Conservative MPs described the threat to family life and Labour MPs their concern about workers’ welfare. But that was 25 years ago and Sunday is now the second most remunerative day of the week for HM Treasury. In response to the proposal the Church of England weighed-in with: ‘We believe that for family stability and community life as many people as possible should have the possibility of a common day off every week. The detrimental impact on the health of employees and on small retailers outweighs any potential benefits of further deregulation’. But Whitehall responded with:’The emergency legislation will be very clear this is only a temporary measure and should not be taken as a signal for future reform’.

Hmmmm….., many see this as a precursor to revoking all Sunday restrictions, forever. John Ashcroft, spokesman for the Keep Sunday Special Campaign, said: ‘Such moves are unnecessary and a cover for creeping deregulation. David Cameron came into government promising to make this country the most family-friendly in Europe, but more than one million families have at least one parent working on both weekend days so have little time to spend with children who are not at school. No changes to Sunday trading legislation are needed to enable all Olympic visitors to have a great day out with family and friends.’

Quite so – everyone needs a day off with their family, occasionally.

Morrisons Supermarkets announced proposals to increase their 12% UK market share by opening some 70 High Street convenience stores over the next two years.

Meanwhile Morrisons Supermarkets announced proposals to increase their 12% UK market share by opening some 70 High Street convenience stores over the next two years. They also confirmed online sales are planned for non-food items because (unlike their “big four” competitors) they do not yet sell over the internet. The Company posted reasonable year end results with sales up by 7%, so expanding into online sales and High Street convenience stores is a logical step for them. They still have a long way to go though to catch up with the competition – Tesco have 1345 and Sainsbury have 435 local shops.

The Morrisons board has a reputation for caution and allowing others to trial new ideas before adopting them. Having digested Safeway with less-than-expected trouble it would now suit Morrisons (and Tesco/Sainsbury/Asda) if both the Use Classes Order and Sunday Trading restrictions were ditched. The High Street seems set to become a new battleground for multiples striving to increase market share. If, as the Portas Review suggested, retailers are prepared to embrace the technology there are still plenty of opportunities.

If all this technology scares you then you’d better stay away from Seoul, South Korea where the days of ‘bricks-and-mortar shopping’ (as they call it) may be numbered. Soon you may not need to stand on a cold, draughty Market stall but could sit 24/7 in a nice warm van, dropping things off to Customers homes and earning a fortune in the process.

The trial allegedly boosted online sales for Home Plus by 130% and online membership by 76%.

Seoul is a breeding ground for new technology. It has an excellent underground system where every busy commuter has a Smartphone glued to the side of his or her head – ready to do a spot of virtual shopping whilst waiting for their train. Tesco’s Korean arm, Home Plus recently transformed Hangangjin Station into a ‘virtual supermarket’ by pasting posters of stocked shelves onto the platform walls. Each item had a QR (Quick Response) code posted next to it so shoppers could photograph the QR and confirm the quantity by Smartphone. The delivery was then made to their home once they get back from an exhausting day designing better mousetraps or whatever. The trial allegedly boosted online sales for Home Plus by 130% and online membership by 76%.

Maybe the day will come when a High Street is no longer needed.

London Underground has expressed interest but whether UK consumers are ready to embrace the technology is unknown. Maybe the day will come when a High Street is no longer needed – Shoppers will be able to buy everything they need by Smartphone off posters and QR codes. All that a Stallholder needs to do is set up a delivery service, post piccies of their stock and QR codes on a stall and then wait for the orders to flood in. Customers won’t need to go shopping as often so Sunday trading will be banned to keep the Bishops happy. But if you’re a Stallholder the bad news is you’ll be so busy delivering orders that you still won’t have a day off.

 

 

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