Tag Archives: Sunday Trading

 

Back in November the Chancellor, George Osborne was feeling quite flush after the OBR (Office for Budget Responsibility) forecast he’d have a windfall £27 billion to spend over the next 5 years.

George used it to avoid cuts in tax credits and stave off a threatened rebellion amongst Conservative backbenchers. But four months later the OBR had downgraded it’s forecast because the world economy isn’t growing as fast as expected. So having spent it already George had no alternative but to announce .5% p.a. cuts off the government spend (currently £750 billion p.a.) That way he does at least have a chance to meet his commitment of eliminating the fiscal deficit (difference between tax income and expenditure) by 2020. However, government spending is projected to rise to £850 billion p.a. by 2020 so that represents some £4.25 billion of cuts in that year alone which is a lot of noodles. And everyone is carefully ignoring the elephant in the room – the eye-watering level of government debt run-up to stave off a banking collapse.

Delivering local council services through the ‘Big Society’ agenda will be more likely than ever

Achieving the savings will be no easy task for Government departments squeezed for the previous 10 years. Delivering local council services through the ‘Big Society’ agenda will be more likely than ever. County education authorities were given a warning that HMG intends to ‘set schools free’ from council bureaucracy by requiring them to convert to academy status. Presumably someone has done the maths and can see the cost savings.

Lock-up kiosk businesses in market Halls celebrated after Small Business Rates Relief was made a permanent concession

As well as cutting expenditure the Chancellor announced cuts in taxes to stimulate the economy. This included an immediate increase in personal allowances to £11,500 but no increase in VAT thresholds which was a shame. Lock-up kiosk businesses in market halls celebrated after Small Business Rates Relief was made a permanent concession with the RV threshold doubled to £12,000 with taper relief up to £15,000. Hopefully the Valuation Office and local councils will now co-ordinate their paperwork to avoid the need for individual applications.

Sweetened drinks represent only a fraction of the sugar consumption by kids whose processed meals mean they eat their own weight in sugar each year.

Of course any Budget Chancellor needs a high profile, headline-grabbing announcement to stop MP’s from dozing-off during the boring fiscally bits. George opted for a ‘sugar tax’ on sweet drinks with the £520m raised going to help the NHS combat childhood obesity and fund school sports. With suspicious alacrity the School Food Campaigner Jamie Oliver was pictured jumping for joy outside Parliament. The share price of Tate & Lyle also plunged until investors remembered their company had sold it’s sugar business back in 2010. George made the crackingly self-righteous statement that: ‘I am not prepared to look back at my time here in this Parliament, doing this job and say to my children’s generation: ‘I’m sorry – we knew there was a problem with sugary drinks. We knew it caused disease. But we ducked the difficult decisions and we did nothing’. Great stuff, George, but sweetened drinks represent only a fraction of the sugar consumption by kids whose processed meals mean they eat their own weight in sugar each year.

George couldn’t resist having a swipe at the ‘Brexit’ campaigners

With the 23rd June EU membership referendum rapidly approaching, George couldn’t resist having a swipe at the ‘Brexit’ campaigners. Eurosceptics reacted furiously and accused him of misrepresenting the opinion of the OBR when he said it had warned of ‘negative implications’ for the UK’s economy after a Brexit. George has reason to be worried – the latest public opinion polls show voters are pretty evenly split with the FSB saying it’s members are ‘insufficiently briefed’ and the CBI sitting on the fence. The OBR joined them on the fence with a statement that ‘It is not for us to judge at this stage what the impact of a Brexit might be on the economy and public finances’. And no-one has mentioned immigration yet.

Restrictions on Sunday trading

The spring budget came a couple of weeks after the government failed in another attempt to remove restrictions on Sunday trading to stimulate the economy. It tried to dodge an inevitable fight with the clergy, shopworkers unions and ‘Keep it Special’ backbenchers by proposing local councils should set the hours. This fooled no-one. It then offered to amend the proposals in the House of Lords if MP’s voted in favour. That simply annoyed the fence-sitters and resulted in an unlikely alliance of backbench Conservative, Labour and SNP MP’s voting 317 against vs. 286 in favour.

Ministers conceded the proposals would not be resurrected

Ministers conceded the proposals would not be resurrected. The ‘High Streets’ planning minister Brandon Lewis announced through gritted teeth that ‘We respect the view of the House of Parliament. The Commons has spoken and given a very clear view – we have to absolutely respect that’. Brandon’s pronouncement was reminiscent of a famous radio interview comment by Dick Tuck, a would-be U.S. Democratic Senator. He sombrely conceded defeat in his California election campaign by announcing: ‘The people have spoken – the bastards’.

 

The Chancellor’s July budget from the all-new, all-Conservative government was disappointing for small businesses. George Osborne described it as ‘a budget for working people’ but not many were impressed. There were no new incentives for entrepreneurs or start-ups and the only rabbit he produced out of his hat was the ‘National living wage’ set at £7.20/hour from April 2016. But this was for over-25’s only with under-25’s still stuck with the lower ‘National minimum wage’. This was retained for under-25’s to ensure they can ‘secure work and gain experience’ i.e. not be priced out of the labour market. Despite this the independent Office for Budget Responsibility predicted job losses, particularly in the agricultural sector so in response George cut Corporation tax from 20% to 19% (from 2017) and increased the National Insurance ‘employment allowance’ which waives contributions from small businesses to the tune of £3,000 per annum.

Small businesses are deeply unimpressed

Research confirms small businesses are deeply unimpressed. Those in the retail sector consider this no substitute for the more, errrr…informal wage arrangements often seen in the Markets industry. They would far have preferred an increase to the Vat threshold – a very real disincentive to making the leap into Vat-registration.

The budget also contained proposals to review the old Chestnut of Sunday trading legislation

The budget also contained proposals to review the old Chestnut of Sunday trading legislation. Osborne suggested decision-making might be devolved to local Councils to support ‘bricks and mortar’ retailing versus it’s online competition. The arguments for and against are well-rehearsed – increased costs over 7-days without increased takings etc – but unfortunately his glamorous blonde colleague and Minister for Small Business, Anna Soubry MP (Con. Broxtowe, Notts.) forgot her job title before going public with the proposals. She should have consulted with a few more small business representatives before suggesting critics such as ‘Keep Sunday Special’ are “…harking back to a world that probably didn’t exist. Sunday was the most miserable day of the week”. She should, for instance have talked to the Federation of Retail Newsagents or Association of Convenience Stores. They rejected Osborne’s proposals, suggesting less than one in ten customers wanted changes. Other critics included ‘The Sun’ newspaper which – after ditching Page three’s ‘News in Briefs’ – let columnist Rod Liddle loose to sum it up nicely as ‘a wonderful excuse for me to buy yet more crap’.

Nor were the proposals well-received by two of the ‘Big four’ supermarkets. Tesco and Sainsbury own lots of Convenience store outlets which can stay open already, so don’t fancy opening expensive Supermarkets as well. Asda and Morrison though don’t have the same High Street presence so were enthusiastic. This proposal is now out for consultation so if you’d like to share your views about trading 7-days per week I’m sure Anna would like to hear from you. She can be emailed at: anna.soubry.mp@parliament.uk

What the report really highlights is a total lack of regulation in this important area

At about the same time the CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) confirmed it had found evidence supermarkets are misleading customers with price promotions – but the pricing guidelines mean the problem is more of a cockup than a conspiracy. This came after a 3-month enquiry triggered by a ‘Super complaint’ lodged by the Consumer Association magazine ’Which?’ The CMA confirmed although there was evidence of misleading pricing on the 40% of grocery sales on promotion at any one time, the problem is not widespread. Supermarkets generally take compliance with pricing seriously and the problems identified by ‘Which?’ are caused more by lack of clarity in the pricing guidelines. The CMA made some weak recommendations about price comparison data and ‘Was/Now’ promotions, where by law the period on offer of an ‘Is now’ price cannot exceed the period of the higher ‘Was then’ price. The industry-funded and entirely voluntary Retail Ombudsman suggested pricing guidelines need updating because “The problem is the current rules are merely guidelines, which present retailers with a lot of wriggle room. What the report really highlights is a total lack of regulation in this important area”. This sounds rather like the problems of food labelling and the impossibility of legislating for every possibility.

Meanwhile in the dysfunctional world of Euroland ..

Meanwhile in the dysfunctional world of Euroland the Germans played a game of blink – and lost. The unblinking Greek Prime Minister Aleksis Tsipras called the EMU’s bluff and after three (or was it four?) sets of ‘final negotiations’ agreed to some watered-down austerity measures in return for a bail-out of the Greek Euro. The Bundesbank smiled at the breakthrough through gritted teeth as the UK blocked it’s £1 billion contribution to the Euro Stabilisation Fund and City of London bankers stuck two fingers up at their rivals in Frankfurt. The Euro dropped to 72p from 97p in 2008 and although sterling is not yet back to it’s pre-financial crisis exchange rate, it is going the right way. Which is nice.

The German Chancellor reportedly arrived in Athens for the last round of emergency talks to be greeted by an officious Greek immigration officer armed with a clipboard and a list of questions: “Name?” he asked:“Angela Merkel” she replied. “Nationality?” he asked. “German” she replied. “Occupation?” he asked. “Nein – not yet” she snapped. ”First ve haf to talk……”

 

News-Shopper with bags

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.