By Daniel Hunter

Small business owners across the UK oppose Sunday trading law changes for large retailers, according to a survey by XLN Business Services, the small business specialist.

This stands in contrast to calls by representatives of big businesses such as Lord Wolfson, CEO of Next, for the Sunday trading laws to be permanently relaxed following a Government-led 8 week relaxation for the Olympics and Paralympics this summer.

Currently, small businesses may choose the hours they are open, whilst larger businesses (with over 280 sq m of floorspace) may only trade for 6 hours. The government is relaxing the Sunday trading laws for larger businesses so they may open when they like on the Sundays during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The goverment has stated this is so all UK businesses can benefit from the large numbers of tourists who will be visiting the UK.

When asked Would you like the Sunday Trading Laws to be ditched forever after they have been relaxed for the 2012 Olympics? 49.4% of small businesses said they wouldn’t, compared with 31.1% who said they would and 19.4% who didn’t know.

“Small businesses cannot afford the labour costs incurred from Sunday trading, so we are not able to compete on a level playing field with our big competitors,” said small business owner Steve Harold, of Suffolk Pots. Suffolk Pots manufacture and sell English terracotta pottery. “This will squeeze our share of sales even further.”

“Our research reveals that business owners are worried that the suspension of Sunday trading laws during the Olympics will be the beginning of a slippery slope towards permanent changes,” said Christian Nellemann, CEO of XLN Business Services. “There seem to be two main reasons for the opposition to permanent changes. Some small business owners make a lot of money on Sundays and are anxious about losing trade to big businesses, who currently can only trade for 6 hours. Other businesses, on the other hand, can’t open on a Sunday as it is the owner’s only day off and are worried about competition with larger, more flexible labour cashing in while they are having their day of rest. We would like the government to ignore the big business lobby and return things to the status quo after the Olympics and thereby protect small business owners.”

The question about Sunday trading was part of XLN’s Q1 2012 Small Business Opinion Survey. The survey polled 487 small business owners for their opinions on current issues, factors affecting their business and forecasts for the future. For example, business owners rated the number of customers which have visited their business an average 5.03/10 compared to 4.98/10 last quarter.

This shows an increase in customers from the last quarter which may be down to factors including March’s heatwave which boosted retail sales. Overall business sentiment for the last 6 months was low with business owners rating all factors affecting their business with an average 4.49/10, compared to last quarter’s survey which averaged 4.54/10.

When asked to look forward over the next 6 months, business owners showed a flash of optimism regarding sales, with them rating their overall estimate of future of sales as 5.06/10 compared to 4.89 last quarter. This optimism regarding an increase in sales could be due to the upcoming Olympics and Diamond Jubilee which may bring sales opportunities to many UK businesses. The overall picture remaining pessimistic, however, with all factors being rated a low average of 4.37/10, just slightly higher compared to last quarter’s survey which averaged at 4.30/10 reflecting the on-going economic difficulties in Britain’s high streets.

With many businesses struggling, and in the aftermath of the Budget 2012 being announced, the government came in for criticism for not providing enough support for small businesses, with particular criticism directed at the failure of educating prospective employees. Overall the current UK government received a rating of just 2.81/10.

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