I recently responded to a UK government consultation, which aims to enable more shops to open on Sunday, sacrificing sanctity and family on the altar of consumerism and “productivity”. As you can probably guess, I have many issues with this idea.
Firstly, whilst the government claims this will liberate, the reality is that more people will be forced to work Sundays and there will be less time for families to enjoy pursuits other than shopping. We are already too heavily dependent on hyper-consumerism for our much-vaunted GDP figures and changing the rules, designed to guard us from forgetting who we are, would only compound the problem. Citizens need a wider range of opportunities to participate in our society, not the narrowing and restricting of activity that these proposals represent.
Moreover, small shops already provide for any emergency requirements on Sunday and do not encourage over-consumption, which is the zeitgeist of big retailers. These businesses would suffer as a large chunk of their custom would gravitate to the bigger units.
As acknowledged in the consultation’s “Executive Summary”, many people in the UK believe Sunday should be special, not just another day of the week. These proposals further erode the values and principles that make Britain a worthwhile place to visit and attract tourists. They will have plenty of other chances to shop in our country and it’s not as if they can’t buy the same things in other places.
From what I understand, much of the increased custom expected in opening stores for longer hours is merely a redistribution of what they would already be spending. As a nation, we are currently incredibly indebted with credit cards all too frequently maxed-out. We most certainly don’t need more people to be thinking of spending they do not have, or gazing longingly at products they cannot afford.
Preserving a small sanctuary from the tyranny of turbo-consumerism could actually help productivity as people work better when they are not so jaded by over-exposure to retail and enabled to participate in more diverse recreations and cultural pursuits. Maybe one day David Cameron will remember when he talked of Gross Domestic Happiness and seemed to acknowledge that there was more to society than Big Business’s bottom line.