Should shop workers get a rest on Boxing Day too?

Norwich Boxing Day sales 2015.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norwich Boxing Day sales 2015.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Should shops close on Boxing Day to give workers and their families a proper Christmas break? MPs will discuss the issue today after thousands of people signed a petition making the case. Annabelle Dickson reports.

Norwich Boxing Day sales 2015.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norwich Boxing Day sales 2015.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A great tradition and boost for the economy, or damaging to family values?

MPs will today debate whether the law should be changed to delay the post-Christmas shopping rush after more than 220,000 people put their name to a petition calling for a forced closure of shops on Boxing Day so workers can enjoy a longer festive break with their families.

The government has already signalled it is unwilling to propose a Boxing Day ban, claiming it is not for central government to tell businesses how to run their shops, or how best to serve their customers.

But concerns about longer and longer shop opening times are shared in some quarters.

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The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, said he was sympathetic to some retail workers and their families who sometimes felt they got a raw deal at Christmas – something he thought lay behind the petition.

'It seems to be increasingly hard to keep Christmas Day clear of retail activity, and though the Feast of St Stephen (Boxing Day) is a rather neglected day in the Christian year I doubt that shutting the shops will lead to a better observance. We seem to open our shops more often and for longer than many other countries, and I sometimes wonder why.'

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Michael Baker, the managing director of Bakers and Larners in Holt, wanted to go further, claiming he did not believe in Sunday opening. He said some of his department store was open on Sunday 'against my better nature' because of competition in the market place. He claimed the amount of time people were working was contributing to breakdowns in the family unit.

He said: 'I would like to see the whole issue of opening hours looked at from all points of view, including the family point of view. I don't think it is necessary to have shops available 24 hours a day,' something he described as 'immoral and unnecessary'.

He also warned that we were going to 'rue the day' a large part of the high street closed 'because of the internet'. He said that Bakers and Larners would be closed on Boxing Day, but the convenience store Budgens, which he also owns in Holt, would be open with reduced hours. Mr Baker was also sceptical about whether the Boxing Day sales were genuine reductions.

'As a firm we are old established and still hopefully trade with proper values. We do not buy products to sell in sales. Our sales are genuine sales stuff that has come to the end of the season, is genuinely overstocked or that we made a mistake on the buying, or there might be product that has been used for demonstration purposes.'

He said that products being stocked in unlimited quantities with 50 to 70pc off were totally misleading.

'Sales nowadays are not genuine,' he claimed.

Jonty Young, who is head of marketing for independent shops in The Lanes in Norwich, but speaking in a personal capacity, said that Christmas time-off for individuals who owned their own shops was most welcome.

He pointed out that the Boxing Day sales had been a big thing even in the 1980s when he remembered images of people camping outside shops.

He said he thought everybody was working too hard these days, but independent shops may feel they had to open on Boxing Day because the big shops did.

He said some independent shop owners often did not go on holiday because they didn't want to miss the chance of making the sale that took them into profit.

Should shops be closed on Boxing Day? Write to EDP letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email giving your full name, address and contact details.

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