The Great Boxing Day Opening Debate!

It all began with an innocent – in fact many would say, charming – little animated cartoon by Sainsburys extolling the joy of spending time with family at Christmas as being the best gift you could possibly give.  And then the backlash began as Sainsbury’s employees began commenting on social media that they couldn’t be with their families as they have to work.  Fast forward a couple of weeks and a petition is now doing the rounds, asking the Government to force shops to close on Boxing Day. Such has been the response, with over 200,000 signatures, that the Government was obliged to consider the petition in Parliament.

Can we afford to Close?

Setting sentiment aside, can the retail economy afford to close down entirely for Boxing Day? 

While the Christmas Day Trading Act prohibits shops larger than 280 sq m from opening on 25 December, Boxing Day has long been considered important for the retail industry.

Last year, experts predicted that 22 million people, many attracted by sales, would spend more than £3bn.  On Boxing Day 2015, Selfridges reported its best-ever first hour of trade, taking more than £2m between 09:00 GMT and 10:00 GMT.

It’s clear that Boxing Day brings huge sums into the coffers, not least from tourists visiting the UK for a short period of time.  Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company, which represents 600 retailers in Bond Street, Regent Street and Oxford Street, said wealthy foreign tourists were fuelling bumper sales.

He said the West End was a “huge international draw”, particularly for tourists from China, the Middle East and the US.

“They probably spend about four or five times the amount of a UK shopper,” he said.

“We have seen the rise of Chinese in the last couple of years, they are now our third largest [international] shopper – and they will be number one in a couple of years.”

The Impact on Ecommerce

If the shops are shut – with more people sitting at home on Boxing Day, sofa surfing – chances are there will be a huge spike in online shopping.   Experian predict:- 

  • 44.9% growth in online retail spending over the next five years
  • £62.7bn estimated online spending by 2020
  • 17.1% of retail sales will be online by 2020, up from 13.9% currently.

Closing retail outlets will allow some employees to stay at home, but what about employees in ecommerce depots, post offices, delivery drivers….

In terms of manpower, it’s true that staff often have to work long hours on Boxing Day –  in 2014, 365,000 people in the UK retail industry worked on Boxing Day, according to the Office for National Statistics.  But they are not alone – employees in the hospitality sector know only too well that they are scarcely going to see their families over the Christmas period.  Not to mention the staff in hospitals, police, fire stations, breakdown companies, taxi firms …. the list goes on.

No Closure on Boxing Day

Frankly, GB UK can ill afford to close its doors to customers who are standing before them knocking, with money in their pockets on this one crucial day in the retail calendar!

Not surprisingly, the Government drew the same conclusion, deciding “We do not believe it is for central Government to tell businesses how to run their shops or how best to serve their customers. Therefore we are not proposing to ban shops from opening”.  Debate closed….for another year.

As for Azuki Accounts – we WILL be closed on Boxing Day.  In fact, we close on 12.30pm on Friday 23rd December and open again on 3rd January!

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