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Last Updated: Friday, 27 August, 2004, 01:40 GMT 02:40 UK
Ten years of Sunday shopping
By Liam Allen
BBC News Online

Shoppers
The public has embraced the Sunday shopping culture
It is 10 years since shops in England and Wales could open on a Sunday.

When the trading laws were changed, campaigners against the move complained it would lead to an "erosion of family life".

BBC News Online looks at the impact of the laws 10 years on.

Shopping centres say Sunday is one of the most successful days of business.

Consumers, it seems, have thoroughly embraced the Sunday shopping culture which began on 28 August, 1994.

The old tradition was that people had a Sunday lunch or would take part in a leisure pursuit or would go and see their family
Keep Sunday Special Campaign

But the Keep Sunday Special Campaign says its assertion that the laws would lead to an erosion of family life has been proved right.

Campaign manager John Alexander told BBC News Online: "Family life has been eroded in the last 10 years, although Sunday trading is only one factor.

"Every day we read about some chief executive giving up a job because of the stress caused by continuous working.

"I think a lot of people now realise that we were right about this."

'Big knock'

Mr Alexander says that before the 1994 legislation, people would "put the day aside" for their family and generally would not work.

"The old tradition was that people had a Sunday lunch or would take part in a leisure pursuit or would go and see their family," he says.

"People might go to see friends, they went for walks or they did leisure activities."

Relationships in society had "taken a heck of a knock" as a result of Sunday trading, he adds.

"Some of the organisations are now falling through.

"With dramatic societies or cricket teams, people no longer have any time."

Day out

But Kit Harris, spokesman for Sheffield's Meadowhall shopping centre, argues that Sunday shopping actually adds to family life.

In common with all the shopping centres questioned by News Online, she says many families treat a Sunday trip to Meadowhall as a family day out.

A lot of families, especially in the school summer holidays, see a visit here as a nice day out
Meadowhall shopping centre
"On a pounds per hour basis, Sunday is definitely one of our most popular shopping days," she explains.

"A lot of families, especially in the school summer holidays, see a visit here as a nice day out.

"For us, as a family centre, we have a lot of different activities for all the family including things like ice skating."

But Mr Alexander dismisses the notion of shopping as a way to spend quality family time.

"A lot has been made of shopping being a wonderful family pursuit but it's a bit of a myth", he says.

"I don't think children particularly enjoy shopping."

Sunday window
Sunday trading is perhaps one of the elements that has had an impact on Sunday activity
Church of England

The Catholic church says there had been a 15% decline in Sunday mass attendances between 1994 and 2002 but that there had been "no clear link to Sunday trading".

The Church of England says it has seen a shift, in the last 10 years, towards worshippers attending services right across the week rather than just the traditional Sunday service.

"Sunday trading is perhaps one of the elements that has had an impact on Sunday activity but generally it's not just Sunday trade - it's also sporting activities and other pursuits", a spokesman says.

Specific figures for were not available to make a direct comparison between Sunday attendances now and 10 years ago because of a change in the way statistics are compiled, he adds.

But while many support the freedom of choice to do what they like with their Sunday, Mr Alexander argues that choice is not available to all.

"The fact is there are still people serving behind the counter.

"They can't spend the time with their families and many will have been pressured into working."




SEE ALSO:
Sunday working bill passed
16 May 03  |  Scotland
Stores stretch Sunday trade laws
24 Dec 00  |  UK News


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