HTA comments on 20th Anniversary of the 1994 Sunday Trading Act

The HTA is calling on Government to exempt garden centres from the outdated 1994 Sunday Trading Act

Today in 1994, the Sunday Trading Act came into law. Twenty years later, some of the regulations introduced by the Act seem particularly outdated. This is especially the case for garden centres, which are covered by the Act purely due to their need to be a large size, a necessity for display their live products.

Whilst having restricted Sunday opening hours causes significant economic implications for garden centres, it is also families and hobby gardeners who also suffer from this unnecessary regulatory burden on their enjoyment.

Garden centres play important roles as leisure destinations for families and hobby gardeners, supporting 20 million people throughout the UK who enjoy gardening. As we all know, gardening is a healthy, family activity which encourages outdoor exercise, and helps us nurture our relationship with nature, wildlife, and the natural food we eat.

However, the current Sunday trading restrictions are making it more difficult for families and gardeners to enjoy their hobby as they only have a very limited time period on Sundays during which they can get supplies and plants from garden centres. By calling for Sunday trading restrictions to be abolished for gardens centres, the HTA is not seeking to undermine the arguments for keeping Sundays special, but believe that gardening is an important leisure activity enhancing peoples? free time and contributing to healthy and happy family living.

The idea that garden centres should be treated the same as large supermarket chains is further compounded by the false belief that garden centres only require staff during shop opening hours. However, as garden centres are handling live products, staff continue to work to maintain and water the plants and flowers and re-stock shelves, whilst not being allowed to open the tills to willing customers.

Evidence has suggested that there is no substantial difference in working hours between Scottish garden centres, where there are no trading restrictions in place, and garden centres in England and Wales, where the Act is still in force.

The 1994 Sunday Trading Act is particularly out of touch in light of the growing 24/7 internet trading culture, rather than unnecessarily penalising direct retail businesses already struggling to compete. The Government should be looking to support them to thrive in this economic climate particularly SMEs, which the majority of garden centres are.

Raoul Curtis-Machin, Head of Horticulture at the HTA, said: ?The Sunday Trading Act is an anachronism in this day and age, especially with 24 hour internet retail on the rise.? Gardening is an important and healthy hobby which should be supported by Government rather than be affected by unnecessary bureaucratic burden.?

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