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A permanent relaxation of the Sunday trading laws may become inevitable sooner rather than later as the current younger generation of shoppers matures.
Weekend shopping has become a leisure activity for the whole family
That is the conclusion to be drawn from research conducted earlier this month by Ipsos MORI, which coincides with the temporary suspension of Sunday trading restrictions during the Olympics.
Just over half the adults surveyed - 52% - said they were against making the temporary arrangements permanent after the Games have ended, while 36% were in favour. The remaining 12% were undecided.
However, people aged 15-24 showed a much greater enthusiasm for a permanent relaxation of the laws, with only 35% against and 50% in favour.
At the other end of the age spectrum only 28% of those aged 55-64 and 21% of the 65+ age group would like to see a permanent change in the law.
Ipsos MORI points out that groups wanting to keep Sunday special have always argued that allowing stores to trade on a Sunday would destroy families. However, the research shows that those with children are actually more likely to be in favour of permanently extended hours on a Sunday than those without children.
Forty-two per cent of those with children in the household are in favour of a permanent extension compared to only 33% of those without children. Ipsos MORI suggests this is because, for today's generation of families, shopping at the weekend has become a leisure activity in itself for the whole family, as opposed to just an essential chore.
Ipsos Marketing associate director Sasha Birkin said: "The government hopes that by temporarily suspending the rules, visitors coming to London will take advantage of longer trading hours, which will help boost falling retail sales. Retailers in Britain are hoping the relaxation could provide them with a much-needed boost in sales of around £220m.
"This generation of youngsters have spent most of their shopping lives post the 1994 Sunday Trading introduction and have grown up accustomed to unrestricted trading hours on other days of the week. The research shows that the younger generation of shoppers are less conservative than their parents and less attached to the idea of keeping Sunday special."