Plans to give local authorities the power to change Sunday trading hours are a blow for independent shops, says the Federation of Wholesale Distributors, whose members supply and support about 72,000 retail businesses.

James 14 webFWD chief executive James Bielby said the announcement expected in tomorrow’s Budget would take trade away from independent shops which serve local communities if larger stores were allowed to open longer on Sundays. “This is a baffling move by the Chancellor, one which was not mentioned anywhere during the election campaign,” he said. “There is no compelling evidence to suggest that sales will increase if larger shops are open longer, and even the supermarkets are unconvinced of the value of longer hours. Simply spreading consumer spend over a longer period adds cost to businesses with little extra benefit, but it punishes the smallest operators who have previously had this tiny advantage over the national chains.”

He added: “Like the wholesalers who supply them, independent shops offer variety and individuality on the high street, and play a role in our cultural heritage. Those few extra hours a week where smaller stores can trade without competition from megastores have been a good compromise, and one which the public support. The current law supports entrepreneurs who start and grow local businesses and allowing local authorities to remove this would penalise those ambitious business owners.”

FWD member companies support 1.1m jobs in the food and drink supply chain, including 540,000 in retail. Many of these jobs are part time, with flexible hours, and close to the homes of employees. Many of the shops they supply are in rural or neighbourhood locations, providing vital services on the doorstep of millions of people.

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