SO concerned are the larger retailers about the prospects of suffering poor festive trading they are asking the Government to extend opening times by four hours on the last Sunday before Christmas.
As the effect of four interest rate rises, tighter credit arrangements, ever increasing council tax and petrol costs, all begins to bite – retailers realise that Christmas 2007 is already proving to be one of the most difficult trading periods for many a year.
As things currently stand, many retailer with premises of more than 3,000sq ft is restricted to opening for a maximum of six hours on a Sunday – a regulation that became law in the 1994 after a long struggle by the business community.
With Christmas Day falling this year on Tuesday department stores, fashion shops and electrical retailers are lobbying the Government to grant a dispensation for longer hours on December 23 because it is likely to prove one of the most important business days – perhaps the most important in the whole year.
The National Consumer Council – the Government-owned consumer watchdog – is backing the bid for a general deregulation, arguing the law “inconsistent and out of date.”
But hold on – hasn’t this whole Sunday trading business, at Christmas already gone too far?
Large (and many smaller) retailers in Chester offer late night opening arrangements throughout December, as they have done for the past 25 years or so.
Perhaps the time has come for the Government of the day – and remember, Sunday Trading came under Mrs Thatcher’s time in office – to introduce a new piece of legislation under which no retailer would be permitted to open on any Sunday in December.
Not only be this be a very welcome break for all shop workers and their families but my guess is that the rest of us would so organise our lives still to do all the Christmas shopping we need.
THINGS are moving so quickly over David Abrahams and the “donorgate” saga that by the time you read this – and I am writing this week from Tenerife – a number of political heads may have already rolled.
Although, as ever, I gather my news from British radio news bulletins, television and newspapers being out of the country does make for a certain degree of welcome detachment.
When he succeeded Tony Blair (remember him?) as PM, Gordon Brown’s big selling point – in many ways his USP – was that he is a “safe pair of hands”.
Pledging, as he stood with his wife on the steps of number 10, he promised, in the words of his old school motto, “that I will do my utmost”.
He implied that we should forget the big grandstanding ideas of his predecessor and spoke about more transparency and increased “values” – in effect, a rather drab new era of politics – but one in which we would all feel part.
As another of his predecessors was fond of saying, “A week in politics is a long time” but I suggest that, perhaps, as never before Mr Brown’s particular week has dealt a blow from which he may not recover.
The “discgate” affair – HMRC has now admitted that they had more than 2,000 security incidents last year – and the “donorgate” findings have followed the PMs apparent “bottling” of a snap election, and coming they have made him look like a can’t do rather than can do politician, a leader without political vision and a manager without leadership skills.
New Labour’s theme song at the 1997 general election was “Things can only get better” but 10 years on it looks as though that under Mr Brown, things will only get bitter.