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Page last updated at 13:27 GMT, Wednesday, 29 September 2010 14:27 UK
Religious toy shop owner refuses to open on Sunday

Joe Wilson
By Joe Wilson
BBC Radio Lancashire

Gary Grant
Gary claims his thinking comes directly from biblical teaching

This week I heard a ringing endorsement for a store owner whose tills weren't ringing!

There's a nationwide toy company that has a branch on our county border. It is situated amongst all the major stores on the Middlebrook shopping complex by the M61 in Horwich. On the edge of the Middlebrook is Bolton Wanderers' Reebok Stadium.

The two ventures, shops and soccer, work hand in hand and so when Bolton are playing at home to Manchester United, the retailers rub their hands at the thought of a massive crowd and lots of extra revenue.

Such was the case on Sunday, where I am happy to record Manchester United struggled to a 2-2 draw against the less fancied Bolton side!

Before and after the game, the regular Middlebrook Sunday shoppers were swelled by a nearly 24,000 footie crowd and some of the biggest high street chains in the country benefited from crowded stores and extra sales.

All that is bar one! The Entertainer, which remained shut in the face of one of the biggest Sunday trading days of the year.

Family day

The shop has branches all over the country, 55 in all with eight more soon to be opened and every single one of those shops remains closed on a Sunday despite the obvious trade that is walking past their front doors.

They do so because of their owners' religious belief that the bible instructs us to keep Sundays as a family day.

We invited owner Gary Grant to explain his religious views to us and we found his beliefs didn't seem to affect his profit margins.

"As a Christian I believe there should be a day of rest and Sunday is that day. As a company we employ six to seven hundred people. Many of them are mums and dads and it is important to us that they get a break when they can spend time at home with their families and their children.

"Sunday is a family day, it wouldn't be the same if I gave them a day off in the week.

"For instance, if I gave them say a Wednesday off, many of their children would be at school and they couldn't have their family lunch together."

Gary claims his thinking comes directly from biblical teaching: "God gave us Ten Commandments and one of them is to keep the Sabbath holy. I believe in a living and active God.

Customers

"I've got a business that is financially viable, we pay all our bills on time and we make a profit. I can do that in six working days."

I asked Gary how he felt about not opening his doors when a big football match is attracting so many extra customers to his front door. "It could be that I had an exceptional trading day on Saturday and will have an outstanding day on Monday. You can't pick 'n' mix with God. You have to believe he is in control of all things and my business is viable in the high street.

"In the toy industry ten years ago, there were half a dozen main chains who were competitors and over the years they have closed down.

"Many of my competitors who are trading for seven days a week are struggling and yet we as a company are still expanding. How is that possible if the inference is that I am losing one day's trading a week?"

Rev Debbie Peatman
Rev Debbie Peatman admired Gary's stand

Gary told me he believes it is not too far an extrapolation to say that those closures could be God's work. "You could say that [our success] is in our skill, in our talent, in the way we buy things, but I believe it is about how we are comfortable in the way we run our company.

"There's a little verse in the bible that says 'I will honour those who honour me'. God knows our heart and if we try to apply that passage with the wrong motive I don't believe it will work, but if we apply it correctly I don't believe God will let us down in any walk of life or in any circumstance."

Our listeners were quick to express their support for Gary. "Well done the shop owner," wrote Sheila. "He's trying to do what's right and that's not easy. I admire his strength and don't let anyone bring him down. It would be great if all men were like him."

Bolted

Dave from Oswaldtwistle said: "It is so refreshing to hear a man saying he will not open his shop on a Sunday."

The Reverend Debbie Peatman from Churches Together in Lancashire also admired Gary's stand: "I thought he was a very impressive guy. This isn't a kind of blind rule keeping on his part. He knows why the Sabbath is important. God has said we need to rest and we all need to hear that."

The Reverend Nick Moxon from Leyland agreed: "I greatly admire his convictions. It is something we seem to have lost in the rush of this world and the Sabbath is a wonderful gift from God to society."

It didn't stop there.

Jenny got in touch from Standish to say: "I totally agree with Gary 100%. If I had the power I would close all retail on Sunday." In fact Jenny went one step further than most when she said: "And I would ban all sport on a Sunday."

Joe in Longridge claimed it's God's will that the doors of commerce remain bolted on a Sunday. "God has given us a written instruction in the bible and more people should follow in those footsteps."

Estelle was another to get in touch with our programme. "I thought this item was wonderful. I feel it is so good because his staff all get Sunday off."

Hypocrite

Dorothy in Heysham gave us a sense of how important observing Sunday's religious history is to some people. "Nine years ago I was on my own and had a full time job. I was only just surviving financially and so I took a two day a week evening job at a well-known food chain.

"I was required to work Sundays and the more I did it the more it upset me because I couldn't attend evening worship. I am a twice a day person. So I approached another member of staff to see if she was willing to work. For me my faith meant more than making money on the Lord's Day."

Every listener that contacted us supported Gary for his belief that family values trump finance. He had undoubtedly struck a supportive chord in BBC Radio Lancashire's Sunday breakfast audience.

However, there was one word of caution and it came from Catherine who asked: "How many of the people in support of the toy shop owner will find themselves in a shop today?"

A point I put to the Reverend Debbie Peatman, I wondered if there was a hint of the hypocrite in some of us. On one hand we applaud Gary's beliefs, but on the other there's a need to get the shopping done and Sunday is an ideal day.

Debbie told me that "none of us are perfect and sometimes there is a little bit of the hypocrite in all of us."

One person who is sticking firmly to his beliefs is Gary Grant. That is why many of the twenty odd thousand happy Bolton fans left the Reebok on Sunday and passed a shop door bolted shut by belief and principle.

Joe presents the faith programme on BBC Radio Lancashire from 6am each Sunday.




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