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Retail sales figures back up shopworkers experience of Olympic Sunday trading suspension

Date: 20 September 2012 Figures released today by the Office for National Statistics, which show retail sales in August fell by 0.2%, back up the experience of shopworkers who say most of their stores were either quiet or empty during extended Olympic Sunday trading hours.

Earlier this week, the shopworkers' Union Usdaw revealed that 65% of over 700 Reps surveyed said their stores were either quiet or empty during extra Sunday trading hours. Just 5% said they were busier than on a normal Sunday.

The survey also revealed that retailers struggled to find volunteers to cover the extra hours needed, with 56% of Reps saying staff were put under pressure to work extra hours.

The experience of shopworkers has also been backed up by retailers such as Lakeland, who just yesterday slammed longer Sunday opening hours for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, saying they only "increased costs for no benefit".

Typical comments from Usdaw Reps on how busy their stores were included:

  • "Waste of time being open extra hours as very quiet (almost empty) before 9.30am and after 2.30pm."
  • "The store was virtually empty. Customer service, clothing and electrical, pharmacy, opticians and direct desk were all closed. The move was a total failure."
  • "The additional hours of 4.00pm to 8.00pm in our store were quiet most of the time, bordering on empty on occasions. "
  • "Workplace was quiet after 4.00pm. Paid more on lighting and staff than went through till."
  • "Took same amount as usual - no extra benefit to takings at all - took normal amount just over longer period."
  • "I know personally we took no extra income from opening extra hours and people were forced to change their usual work patterns to accommodate."

John Hannett, Usdaw General Secretary said:

"Our survey, together with today's ONS figures and those from retailers such as Lakeland, show that the Government's decision to suspend Sunday trading laws for the Olympic and Paralympic Games was a mistake – both socially and economically.

"As we warned at the time, opening stores for longer doesn't increase consumer spending but it does increase retailers' costs, putting even further pressure on margins at precisely the wrong time.

"Meanwhile, stores were kept open by thousands of shopworkers who would have much preferred to have spent their valuable Sundays with family and friends and, like the rest of the country, cheering on their Olympic and Paralympic heroes."

Notes for Editors:

  1. The latest ONS retail sales figures can be found at: www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/rsi/retail-sales/august-2012/stb-rsi-august-2012.html
  2. The views of Lakeland were reported by the FT yesterday. See: www.ft.com/cms/s/0/89288e72-0181-11e2-83bb-00144feabdc0.html (subscription required).
  3. The Government claimed that the suspension of Sunday trading hours would boost sales for retailers, would help create jobs and growth in the economy and was necessary to ensure that "retailers have the flexibility to take full advantage of the tremendous commercial opportunities presented by the games." Hansard 30 Apr 2012 : Column 1282.
  4. Over 700 Usdaw reps from across England and Wales responded to the survey which was conducted between 1 and 12 September 2012. 96% of Reps said they were opposed to the permanent deregulation of Sunday trading.
  5. Usdaw (the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fourth biggest and fastest growing trade union and has over 420,000 members. Membership has increased by more than 20% in the last six years and by nearly a third in the last decade. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades. For the latest news on Usdaw's campaigns visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk

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