Tobacco, Sunday Trading, Living Wage, Sugar. It certainly looks as though the Government is sending a very strong message to retailers and the convenience sector:

It's time to change what you sell and how you do business

Since the July Budget, trade associations and the trade press have been reflecting on their key constituents concerns about Sunday trading and the impact it will have on the convenience sector.

The loss of exclusive Sunday trading hours for stores less than 3,000 sq ft will hurt many businesses and may force some stores to close.

However, viewed through the lens of what is good for the general public, it's hard to overlook the fact that Sunday is the second most popular shopping day of the week.

The convenience channel has been supported by what is, in effect, a Government sponsored subsidy for the past 20 years, of a 6 hour restriction on large shops trading on Sundays. The journey to full Sunday trading has taken over 30 years to come about and the final decision appears to be left to each local authority to make.

So what should you do?

Talk to your customers

Find out what they want and work out how you can deliver on what you discover. Meeting your current customers' needs should be at the heart of a successful business. Knowing in detail what your customers want you to deliver, particularly in the way of range and service, hours of trading and how you support your wider community, will enable you to stay relevant in your neighbourhood whatever changes the Government legislate for.

Talk to your local councillor

Tell your local councillor about what your customers say about the retail environment they want in their community. Let them know why your independent neighbourhood store is vital to the wellbeing of the people they represent. Tell them how you and your business adds value to your community, which is worth their support. If there is a proposal for relaxing sunday trading in your area, talk with your councillor about the potential consequences of such a change to the people they represent.

Talk to your MP

Give your MP the same message. It doesn’t matter if you voted for the person that was elected in May or not, they have been elected to represent everyone in their constituency. I have discovered that if you have a reason to talk to them, your MP will find the time for you. With an issue like Sunday Trading, you may be able to arrange a personal visit to your store. The key to getting their attention is to fully understand how this change will affect you, your business and the community you serve.

Take action now

When the last change to Sunday Trading was made in 1994, the public voted with their actions and fully embraced the opportunity. The evidence from the use of the convenience stores after 4pm on Sundays suggests that George Osbourne’s announcement reflects a popular demand for consumer choice. If your community doesn’t take this view then you need to take action now.

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Steve Denham
Steve worked in retail for more than 40 years. For more than half of his career he ran a village newsagent with his wife. Steve blogs about all different aspects of retailing from community development to government legislation. He can be contacted on steve.denham@newtrade.co.uk. He is always looking for an interesting debate so leave a comment on this blog or tweet him to share your views.

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