A toy shop in Chester will not be trading this Christmas Eve – because its owner has vowed to put his religious beliefs before profits.
Gary Grant is the man at the helm of The Entertainer chain, which has a branch on Foregate Street. His stores have always shut on Sundays and Christmas Eve falling on a Sunday this year is no exception.
Mr Grant, a self-proclaimed 'charismatic evangelical' Christian, told our sister site the Huddersfield Examiner: “In ’95, when Sunday trading became legal, God challenged me, ‘are you going to give up Sunday trading?’. Keeping the Sabbath holy is one of the ten commandments, so I felt that I shouldn’t be opening the doors on a Sunday.
“For many of our 1,700 staff, they say that the fact that they can have a day off with the family on a Sunday is really important to them, regardless of what they believe.”
He estimated that if they were to open on Christmas Eve this year, his stores could take around 1.5% of their annual turnover, but says that staying closed is worth it.
He said: “God doesn’t owe me anything, but it says in the Bible that he will honour those who honour him, and I will give him all the praise and glory.”
The Entertainer is going from strength to strength. It has opened 16 new stores this year and is having its best year for both turnover and profit since it began in 1981.
However this is the first time that Christmas Eve has fallen on a Sunday since 2006, when the retailer had fewer than half of the 149 stores it has now.
Mr Grant said: “People have said ‘what, even with Christmas Eve being a Sunday, you’re closed?’
“And I say ‘well, what’s the difference? The principle is a day of rest, and a good number of the staff, from now until Christmas, may well be working six days a week, and long days – they have given their all, and they need a break.’ And on a seven day cycle, that’s what Sundays are.”
The Entertainer is part of the Keep Sunday Special campaign, in partnership with shopworkers union Usdaw.
A spokesperson for the union praised Mr Grant’s decision, saying: “Staff in retail work very long hours in the run-up to Christmas.
“Our members tell us that they need time off to recuperate as well as to spend time with their family and friends. That is especially important when they have children for whom Christmas is such a special time.”