Skip to content

Sainsbury's chief executive challenges Sunday trading proposals

Printer-friendly version
The chief executive of Britain’s second largest supermarket chain has criticised government plans to relax Sunday trading protections.
Sainsbury’s Mike Coupe said that the current arrangements work well and there is “no customer demand” for longer Sunday opening hours. 
He also highlighted problems with the detail of the proposals, saying that they would be open to “interpretation” and “abuse”
Under the government’s plans, control over Sunday trading hours would pass to local authorities, which would be able to create zones for stores, within which the longer opening hours would apply. 
“If it’s going to be localised there needs to be some guidelines, some rules enshrined in law [about] whatever a zone actually comprises. I want to see a legally enforceable definition of a zone”, Mr Coupe said.
Local authorities could, for example, “draw a line around an Asda store and that could open and nothing else can”, he said. 

Widespread criticism 

Mr Coupe joins a growing list of those who have opposed the plans. 
The government's move has attracted criticism from a diverse range of groups, including the shop-workers’ union USDAW, churches, Christian Concern and other Christian organisations, and Conservative back-bench MPs such as Fiona Bruce and David Burrowes.
Despite the opposition, David Cameron last week confirmed his intention to press ahead with the plans.
During Prime Minister’s Questions on 21 Oct, he said that the measure would be included in the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill.
Responding to concerns about the impact on families, he said: “Well, there are many stores that families would like to shop in, but if they go to those stores they have to walk around for hours before they are actually allowed to buy anything.”
But Christian Concern Chief Executive Andrea Williams said: 
“The Prime Minister’s approach shows little regard for workers and their families.
“His comment betrays that underlying these proposals is a consumerist mentality that prioritises individual choice and financial transaction over the flourishing of family and community life”.

Longstanding opposition to Sunday trading

Sunday opening restrictions in England and Wales were first relaxed in 1994, although larger stores (those over 3000 sq ft) are limited to six hours’ opening between 10am and 6pm on a Sunday. 
Prior to the Sunday Trading Act 1994 there had been 26 failed parliamentary attempts to liberalise the law, including the infamous Shops Bill 1986, which was defeated at second reading in the House of Commons by 14 votes after a rebellion by Conservative MPs. 

It was the only occasion that a government bill was defeated at second reading during the time that Mrs Thatcher was prime minister.

Oppose relaxation of Sunday protections

To find out more about the campaign to protect Sunday trading laws, visit the Keep Sunday Special website.

Please contact your MP as soon as possible, urging them to oppose the change. 


Subscribe to our emails