Bakers have called the possibility of liberalising Sunday trading hours “bad for business” and “bad for society”.

The present law restricts stores over 3,000sq ft to opening for six hours on a Sunday. But the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) launched a consultation on the issue on January 13, saying Sunday trading laws may need to be updated.

National Association of Master Bakers (NA) chief executive David Smith said the NA was part of the Keep Sunday Special campaign in 1994, and has not changed its position since. “We are against any extension or liberalisation of hours, even though not many of our members are open on Sunday,” he said. “Extended Sunday opening will weaken the position of convenience stores and that affects the profitability of local shopping parades.

It is this linkage that we are interested in, if people stop shopping on the parade, the baker’s shop is hit.”

His view was echoed by craft bakers polled by British Baker. One baker, who did not wish to be identified, said: “I was anti-Sunday trading when it came in. It was the second worst thing Margaret Thatcher did after Statutory Sick Pay. We trade in two shops on Sunday. Extending hours will play into the hands of the big retailers. It is hard for small businesses to open seven days a week, but the supermarkets can easily do it.”

But he predicted the law will change: “I think it is inevitable hours will be extended, as the government will bow to pressure from the large retailers. But it is bad for society.”

Chatwins general manager Kevin Pearce said its new Chester shop will be its only one open on Sundays (see news pg 8). “Current Sunday hours are ample,” he said. “Opening longer would cost us a fortune. It would eat into our profits as people are not going to be buying more in 10 hours than six. They will just be browsing.”

An extension of Sunday opening hours may be less of a burden for supermarket in-store bakers. One said his hours are currently 6am to 1pm, regardless of day of the week. “Someone else looks after the fixture after we have finished baking. I would not like to work longer on a Sunday though!” he said.

Indeed, a survey of over 500 shopworkers by retail union Usdaw found 92% reject relaxation of the law. It says 62% of those surveyed come under pressure to work on Sundays and only 11% have used their legal right to opt out of Sunday working.

The DTI welcomes evidence or views on all aspects of liberalisation. It said: “Many people are benefiting from flexible working outside nine-to-five weekday hours. In a more multicultural society, there is recognition that we should only regulate where necessary.”

And it is commissioning a cost-benefit analysis on Sunday opening, which it plans to publish in Spring.

Submissions, which should be marked as confidential if you do not want the DTI to publish them, should be emailed, by April 14, to: or write to Maria Bazell, Consumer and Competition Directorate, DTI, Bay 418, 1 Victoria Street, London, SW1H 0ET.