Saturday, 6 April 2013

Sunday Economy

Over the last few years, and in particular the last few months, there is talk going around that high street shops are closing down (and recently some of the bigger ones have). One of the blames for this is internet shopping (in particular that some get out of paying taxes that high street shops do, but some high street shops are also creative in how they pay their tax,so it is not specific to internet shops). 

My theory is otherwise - they are not open enough. Not always by their own choosing however; a lot of shops have restricted opening hours on Sundays. Even worse, most shops can't open on Easter Sunday for some reason I don't know. I can't imagine it is a good one. 

Me and Liz rediscovered the Easter one last weekend. We were visiting family so were in the area anyway so thought we would pop to a few shops while we were down. Liz wanted to get some craft supplies and we were thinking of picking up some extra baby foods from the huge Tesco in Watford as it has a slightly larger selection than the one closest to us. 

There we were, ready to go and spend money (which I'm pretty sure is encouraged when the economy is trying to recover from the various recessions it has been in), and hardly anything was open. None of the shops we had planned to spend money in were open, although I did have a wander around a bike/car part shop to see the range of bike lights they had (I was thinking of updating the ones we have on Kaleb's pram). 

Even worse, the craft shop Liz wanted to go to was not only closed, but had staff inside stacking shelves. So the company was paying people to be there, and paying for light/heating, but not taking in any income that day. 

I'm sure years ago it didn't matter too much, but I think it is actively damaging now. I don't know the reason for it, I suspect that it is to encourage people to go to church on Sunday or something, but half the time we were wandering past all the closed shops I was thinking that it would have just been easier to shop on the internet at home instead. How does that help the local economy? Even if we went to big chain stores instead of just small local businesses, they at least employ local people which, while not as good as supporting local businesses directly, is better than sending money outside of the local economy entirely. 

I think one reason I have heard (for the usual Sunday hours thing at least) is to give a better change to small businesses, but often they have the same opening hours anyway, so it is just less time for people to actually go shopping. I work full time so its not like I can do my shopping during the week. Also, after spending £1.50 on a tiny bottle of watered down orange juice at a Newsagents on Easter, I am less inclined to think that the lack of competition is a good thing for the customers. 

The small business protection doesn't make too much sense to me anyway. They are usually closer to where most people live, so sell to anyone who needs something quickly, and a lot of the small shops that are worth protecting sell stuff that a lot of larger stores (which are usually more general) don't stock anyway. 

In summary, my view is that having less opening hours at weekends is bad and will just encourage people to start shopping online more when they can't get anything because the shops are closed. The worry here is that as online shopping is usually so easy, it would make you less likely to bother going out to shop next time anyway.