Enterprise

written evidence submitted by The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) (ENT 48)

The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) represents the gardening and horticulture industry in the UK, acting as the voice for retailers, growers, landscapers, and manufacturers. The HTA has long argued that garden centres should be allowed to open for more than six hours on a Sunday and has campaigned for the need to revisit Sunday trading restrictions since the Sunday Trading Act was introduced in 1994.

We therefore welcome any proposal that would take steps towards achieving this and believe that the Government’s amendment NC21 strikes the right balance – allowing local businesses and communities the chance to have their voice heard at a local level and to decide what is appropriate for them.

This submission argues that the Public Bill Committee for the Enterprise Bill should support NC 21 "Extended Sunday opening hours and Sunday working," which seeks to devolve power over Sunday trading rules to the relevant local authorities. The reasons are outlined below.

Summary

1. The impact of current restrictions on garden centres and the wider horticulture industry

2. The economic benefits of devolving power over Sunday trading rules and any resulting liberalisation

a. Helping SMEs to compete

b. Job creation

c. Increasing productivity

d. Flexibility to respond to the unique seasonality of our sales

e. Increasing revenue from tourism

3. Giving local authorities choice

4. Giving workers more choice

1. The impact of current Sunday trading restrictions on garden centres and the wider horticulture industry

Sunday is a crucial trading day for garden centres and accounts for 20-25% of weekly sales - up to 30% in Scotland where there are no restrictions imposed [1] . 95% of garden centres are SMEs, but due to the large outdoor space required to display plants, are nevertheless subject to the restrictions, whilst farm shops (which sell their own produce) are exempt. We believe this is an arbitrary and unfair distinction.

Every Sunday, garden centres and their customers alike are frustrated by the restrictions. Currently at the beginning and end of the day (outside of the six hours of trading permitted), customers can buy refreshments in the garden centre café, use the Wi-Fi to buy plants online, but are not allowed by law to physically purchase items.

We conservatively estimate that the restrictions cost garden centres up to £75 million per annum in lost sales [2] . This amendment and any liberalisation of Sunday trading rules that it brings would benefit not just garden centres but also through the wider supply chain growers, manufacturers and suppliers. For example garden centres account for 37% of UK ornamental plant growers’ sales meaning that any increase in garden centre sales would also boost their sales.

2. The economic benefits of devolving power over Sunday trading rules and any resulting liberalisation

The UK horticulture industry accounts for more than 29,000 businesses, employs more than 300,000 workers and contributes £10.4 billion to the UK economy. [3]

Relaxing Sunday trading rules at the local level would bring significant economic benefits:

a. Helping SMEs to compete - 95% of HTA members are SMEs who face fierce competition from online-only operators or large companies which have more flexibility to work around the Sunday trading restrictions (e.g. supermarkets with chains of small convenience stores selling plants on a trolley at the front of the store).

Consumers increasingly demand the ability to shop at a time that suits them, and if this happens to be when their local garden centre is closed, they go elsewhere. The existing rules are therefore no longer working in today’s retail environment – and, worse than that, are putting many of our members at a competitive disadvantage to larger, online retailers.

By granting local authorities the ability to relax the rules on Sunday trading for particular areas and at particular times, this amendment would help local authorities to ‘level the playing field’ and ensure that physical garden centres are not at a competitive disadvantage.

b. Job creation - The ability to trade for longer on Sunday would not only allow garden centres to increase sales, but if the full £75 million in lost sales per annum were to be recouped, garden centres could create around 1.75 million optional paid extra hours a year, largely for casual workers who value the chance to earn extra money on a Sunday.

c. Increasing productivity - Allowing garden centres to open longer on a Sunday would also boost productivity. This is because there are many jobs done on a daily basis – watering, feeding and caring for plants and animals – regardless of how long the tills are open. Being able to open the tills whilst these other tasks are being carried out would naturally increase productivity levels.

d. Flexibility to respond to the unique seasonality of our sales - 51% of garden centre sales fall in the planting season between March and June. However, trading hours lost during this period are not recouped later in the year. Our analysis has shown that sales lost during Sundays in spring are not made up the next day or week, in the same way as spending on groceries can be.

e. Increasing revenue from tourism - Garden tourism makes a significant contribution the UK economy. Of the 12 million tourists visiting the UK each year, more than a third visit a garden. This garden tourism is estimated to be worth £1.4 billion a year, a figure which could increase as a result of the Government’s proposals. Many of these gardens include garden centres such as the plant centre at the RHS Wisley Garden, which falls under the current Sunday trading restrictions and finds itself forced to open for browsing only, and to close early, missing out on key trade.

3. Giving local authorities choice

This amendment gives local authorities in England and Wales the power to establish Sunday trading rules which are appropriate for local businesses and the communities they serve. We believe this amendment strikes the right balance – allowing local shops and people to have their voice heard and providing local authorities the flexibility to choose how, where and when liberalisation of the rules might be appropriate. It will give garden centres the opportunity to set out the economic and social benefits that could accrue from any relaxation of the rules in their local area – however where there is opposition to this, local authorities can choose not to use the powers.

4. Giving workers more choice

Understandably there are workers who do not wish to work on a Sunday. These workers are protected in law and can – and do – use the opt-out from Sunday working. We strongly support this entitlement and welcome the Government’s amendments to this Bill in NS 1 which seek to further strengthen the protections it offers. Equally, however, there are workers who prefer to work on a Sunday, or would like greater flexibility to be able do so. These individuals often want to fit their work around other commitments, such as study or other jobs. We believe lifting Sunday trading restrictions would not disadvantage the first group, whilst simultaneously giving more opportunities to the second.

February 2016


[1] HTA Retail Business Improvement Scheme and annual costing analysis

[2] This figure is based on a comparison of sales per m2 by garden centres operating in Scotland (where there are no trading restrictions) and England. The sample used compares garden centre stores operating within the same business so as to ensure differences in marketing, business effectiveness and HR policy are unlikely to explain variances in sales. The analysis is based on 6 Scottish garden centres and 18 English garden centres of varying sizes. The data is based on 2012 sales figures which saw the wettest spring in nearly a century and are therefore likely to be conservative estimates.

[3] Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable Action Plan 2015-2020 available at: https://www.rhs.org.uk/about-the-rhs/pdfs/about-the-rhs/mission-and-strategy/ornamental-horticulture-roundtable-action-plan

 

Prepared 18th February 2016