English stores get green light to open longer for pre-Christmas shopping and beyond
In a timely boost for brick & mortar retailers, English stores will be able to greatly extend trading hours, not only in the three-week run-up to Christmas, but for the post-festive period into January.
Robert Jenrick, the secretary of state for Housing, Communities and Local Government, has told local councils in England they can waive strict rules controlling trading hours.
It means stores will be able to decide how long and when they open through December and January, including the option of a 24/7 service to recoup sales lost during the last lockdown.
And Primark is among the first retailers to confirm trading extensions. Eleven flagship stores will open for 24-hours for the first day once restrictions are lifted in England, in an attempt to meet early demand. These will include three stores in London (White City, Stratford and Charlton but not its Oxford Street flagship).
Generally, Primark stores will operate on extended opening hours with retail parks and major shopping centres trading until 10pm and some stores as late as midnight. Others will be open until at least 8pm on weekdays until December 23, Primark confirmed.
Supermarket giant Tesco will also open hundreds of stores for 24 hours from December 14 in the run-up to Christmas. The rest of Tesco's stores will also operate at extended trading hours from 5am until 11pm between those dates.
Meanwhile, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury's have also announced that they will be operating extending opening hours ahead of Christmas. M&S will be offering its longest ever store opening hours with around 200, or two-thirds of its stores, open until midnight. Around 90% of Sainsbury’s stores are set to open from 6am until midnight in the run up to December 25. But M&S has already confirmed it won't open on Boxing Day.
The trading extensions come as government minster Jenrick said he wanted to sweep away bureaucracy to help stores after months of coronavirus restrictions and increasing competition from online sales.
Stores currently have to apply under the town and country planning act if they want to extend their hours beyond 9am to 7pm from Monday to Saturday, but it’s a process that can take weeks.
In a Daily Telegraph article, Jenrick said: “With these changes local shops can open longer, ensuring more pleasant and safer shopping with less pressure on public transport”.
He added: “How long will be a matter of choice for the shopkeepers and at the discretion of the council, but I suggest we offer these hard-pressed entrepreneurs and businesses the greatest possible flexibility this festive season".
In an added bonus, he also said stores and supermarkets will be able to replenish their shelves “whenever they wish… with flexible deliveries to keep the streets free for the rest of us when we are out and about.
“None of us I suspect enjoy navigating the crowds and none would relish that when social distancing is so important to controlling the virus in the final furlong before the vaccine rollout commences”.
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