24/7 shopping reintroduced for Xmas

Lots of consumption over the festive period will be good for businesses.

The coronavirus pandemic and accompanying restrictions has made 2020 into a rubbish year for many retail businesses (although not for all - see our Good News Box). And many companies say the problem will get significantly worse if they see a big drop in Christmas sales. That’s because the festive period is usually a big money maker for UK businesses: last December Britons spent just under £53 billion at shops. The average monthly spend for the rest of the year was £35 billion.

A new move by the government may help them out. The Communities Secretary has announced that for December and January the UK will get rid of the usual rule that any shop which wants to stay open beyond 9am-7pm must get a special permit (a process that can take several weeks). That means shops could stay open 24/7 if they wanted to. Indeed, Primark has already done this to celebrate the lifting of lockdown on the 2nd December.

Longer opening hours mean more people can fit shopping around their work or life schedules, and also gives businesses more opportunity to entice in passersby for impulse purchases. Some people will be concerned, however, that encouraging extra visits to bricks-and-motor stores is a bad idea during a pandemic, especially when online shopping is an alternative that is available to many. Then there's the question of shop workers. Stores require staff, so longer opening hours requires more staffing. This could have negative impacts on retail workers if they’re forced to work longer shifts or unsociable hours. It’ll also increase their chance of being exposed to coronavirus at work.

But extra staffing requirements can also be a positive thing. Some workers, especially those on zero hour contracts, may be glad to take on extra shifts as a way to increase their monthly pay packet. And of course the more money a company makes, the more likely it is that it will be able to give out bonuses or pay rises or even just not have to cut pay or lay off staff. Shops may even take on extra seasonal workers. That means new employment opportunities - which could be good news for individuals who have been caught up in the UK's current unemployment spike due to coronavirus-related layoffs.

Read our explainer on: consumption.

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