In the fifties shops were not allowed to trade on a Sunday. It was generally accepted that Sunday was a day for families and church. Those shops that were allowed to open for business were only supposed to sell perishable goods. However, of course many gradually flouted the law, as did the customers.
As a child I can remember being sent to our corner shop, to buy items that were not really perishable. The deal was that you had to take a bag and hide the goods in this bag. Whether or not the law was ever administered to the letter, I am not sure. I find it hard to believe that police officers and the like ,were patrolling the streets waiting to pounce on unsuspecting customers and retailers.
Gradually shopping on a Sunday became more accpted and many shops opened for trading, when they should not have. Finally, in 1994, the law was amended andSunday trading began legally in England and Wales. Little changes were initially seen, in the amount of shops open, as many had been flouting the law for sometime.
In some ways the new law offered some control over Sunday trading, as shops were only allowed to open for six hours continuously. Small shops were allowed to open all day, if desired. Many shops chose to open from 10am until 4pm on a Sunday. This seemed to satisfy shoppers and retailers alike.
Initially shop workers were offered some protection against enforced Sunday working, but of course such protection did not last.
Of course, once the Sunday trading laws were eased many shops looked at opening more often. Holidays, such as Boxing Day and Bank Holiday Mondays, now saw more shops opened than ever before.
Good news for traders and shoppers, but not such good news for shop workers and their families. With changes in trading laws most shop workers lost the bonuses that had been paid to encourage them to work during Bank Holidays and Sundays. Double pay, and more or less, vanished as Sunday became just another day. Bank Holidays still usually attract an increased rate of pay but this is not as generous as it used to be.
Proposed changes to Sunday trading
As Christmas 2009 draws to a close, and the New Year is almost upon us, retailers and retailing organisations are already thinking ahead to Christmas 2010. Boxing Day 2010 will fall on a Sunday and this seems to be pushing current proposals.
Large Shoppiung Centres, and the like, want to take full benefit of hungry, Sales shoppers and open for the maximum amount of time possible, on Boxing Day Sunday. A cross section of shoppers asked their opinion, seemed to be in favour of extended opening hours. One selfish shopper, and her partner, stated that she had been a shop worker but, now she no longer was, she would like to see extended Sunday opening hours on Boxing Day 2010.
I guess that retailers are trying to compete with the Internet Sales. These Sales of course operate 24/7. However, I feel that Sundays and Bank Holidays should be treat a little differently to ordinary trading days.
Whether or not you are religious, you must surely appreciate that Christmas is a special time. In order to keep it special we need to offer it protection. We also need to help workers have some sort of Christmas Holiday.
My Husband works for a large Supermarket, that does not allow any of its workers to have any Annual Leave days in December. This means that, if Christmas falls when you are due to work, tough luck. My husband worked Boxing Night, filling the shelves for Sunday's six hours of shopping, Christmas weekend 2009.
After the chaotic scenes of frantic shoppers buying anything, and everything, in the run up to Christmas, is such work and trading really necessary?
The 21st Century looks set to go down in history as yet another one with huge divides between the haves and the have nots. People in the UK will be throwing much of the unecessary food they bought for Christmas into rubbish bins, whilst people at the other side of the world starve.
Yet these British people, still feel the need to carry on shopping. Are we so sad these days that shopping is one of the few pastimes that we can enjoy?
Retailers are beginning their campaign early and are using the scenes of the chaotic Sales of Christmas 2009 to emphasis their case.
One satement springs to mind.
Shoppers. Get a life. Will your Christmas really be ruined if you cannot shop for England every day of the year. Give shop workers a break, help your bank account and enjoy a traditional Christmas, and no this does not mean carry on shopping.
Better still retailers move these sales back to where they belong. In January and as January Sales.
If we carry on undermining the spirit of Christmas, in our mercinary way it is sure to become a thing of the past. Wouldn't that be a shame?