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It’s 20 years since 24-hour shopping first appeared – but have our retail habits changed?

PUBLISHED: 11:30 04 August 2018 | UPDATED: 12:07 04 August 2018

Shopping round the clock is proving less popular in the wake of online retailing. Picture: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Shopping round the clock is proving less popular in the wake of online retailing. Picture: Julien Behal/PA Wire

PA/Press Association Images

We take a look at how retail habits have changed over the last 20 years as people turn more to shopping online.

Shopping round the clock is proving less popular in the wake of online retailing. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA WireShopping round the clock is proving less popular in the wake of online retailing. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

It was once the future of shopping.

But two decades on from the first 24-hour shops opening in Norfolk and Suffolk, round-the-clock retail is falling by the wayside as consumers prefer to shop online rather than in the middle of the night.

It is 20 years since the first 24-hour supermarkets opened, but whereas back then this seemed like the next step in giving customers what they wanted, it is now out of step with shopping trends.

Both Tesco, who pioneered 24-hour trading from a trial of four-stores in 1997 to UK-wide expansion in 1998, and Asda have been reducing the hours at some of their stores in Norfolk and the region.

In 2016, Tesco ended 24-hour trade at 96 stores, including the Lowestoft Leisure Way Superstore and Dereham Tesco Extra, saying that sometimes “only one or two customers” were in stores during late-night openings.

Last year, Asda in Great Yarmouth stopped 24-hour opening, saying it had reviewed demand and decided to close its doors at midnight on weekdays.

Tesco still opens 24-hours at stores in Norwich, Thetford and Bury St Edmunds, while Asda in Lowestoft is open round the clock.

But it is a far cry from when, in its 1999 annual review, Tesco boasted: “Our customers’ lifestyles are changing. They work longer, value their free time more and have less time for shopping. We now have 271 stores operating extended trading hours including 87 stores open 24 hours a day, six days a week.”

Asda in Great Yarmouth ended 24-hour opening last year. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA WireAsda in Great Yarmouth ended 24-hour opening last year. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Nova Fairbank, public affairs manager at Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said: “I think if you look back 20 years that was our perception of where the future was, being able to access shops on a 24-hour basis.

“However if you look at where technology has taken us and the way people’s lifestyles have changed since, everything is done online. If you are only getting one or two people in at a time the costs and overheads of opening a huge store don’t make sense.

“The rise of things like click-and-collect and click-and-deliver and the range of times that offers, you don’t need to have a store open.”

What you said

Rodney Fryer, 70, Retired

I have never used the 24 hour shopping. I have never felt the need to go out in the middle of the night and buy something.

Adrian Holmes, 47, Aviva Business manager

I don’t know if people want to work all night or on Sundays because that didn’t used to be a thing but other than that I think most people value the opportunity to have a job.

Mike and Margaret Razzel, both 70, Retired

I think things have changed enormously. There is much more in the way of online services, we definitely use it and very occasional we pop in at night to pick up the odd item because we know somewhere will be open.

Jared Lowe, 32, Oil and Gas worker

I think it’s easier and it depends how close you are to the stores. Because of the nature of my job meaning I’m at home for a long period of time I just go when we need something.

Shopping Times Changes

1994 — The Sunday Trading Act introduces the six-hour rule for large outlets - regarded as a compromise between keeping the status quo and those who wanted to abolish all restrictions.

1997 — Tesco opens four of its superstores for all-night shopping on Fridays, becoming the first supermarket chain to offer 24-hour trading outside the Christmas period.

1998 — 24-hour opening arrives in Norwich at Tesco Harford Bridge and is taken up by Asda and Sainsbury’s.

2012 — The Sunday Trading Act 2012 suspends Sunday trading laws on eight weekends during the Olympics and Paralympics.

2014 — Asda stops 24-hour trading at 20 stores that are no longer profitable after 10pm.

2015 — Proposals to relax Sunday trading laws for large stores defeated in the House of Commons.

2016 — Tesco ends 24-hour trade at 96 stores saying: “With the growth of online grocery shopping, these stores saw very few customers during the night.”

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