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The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"Trade was still brisk but not frantic"
 real 56k

Sunday, 24 December, 2000, 17:22 GMT
Stores stretch Sunday trade laws
Asda supermarket
Shoppers will have an hour to 'browse' before tills open
Many big food stores have pushed the Sunday trading laws to the limit this Christmas Eve, by opening early to "browsers".

England's trading laws do not allow large shops to open for more than six hours on a Sunday.

But several major chains like Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda opened some stores early for a period of browsing before the tills open.

This allowed customers to walk round the shop and fill up their trolleys before the store officially opened for business.

The move was seen as a further erosion of Britain's adherence to holy days and Bank Holidays.

Some major chains are even planning to open a small number of shops on Christmas Day itself.

Budgen is opening over 50 of its smaller convenience stores.

Two branches of Woolworth's - in predominantly Asian areas where for many people Christmas Day is just a day off and a good opportunity to do some shopping - are also opening.

Slow build-up

The British Retail Consortium says the approach to Christmas so far this year has been relatively slow, partly because of weather and transport problems.

But many supermarket chains have drafted in extra workers to cope with an anticipated last-minute rush.

Tesco has called in more than 9,000 workers to keep shelves stocked around the clock, serve customers and make deliveries at its 287 24-hour stores.

Sainsbury's was also anticipating a last-minute rush with more than two million shoppers expected at its 437 stores on Sunday.

More than 6,000 extra workers have been called in to Safeway, and Asda has bolstered deliveries and staffing levels at its 24-hour stores with an extra 8,000 workers drafted in.

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