Potential plans to reform Sunday trading hours have been challenged by Sainsbury’s Chief Executive, Justin King, who has stated that extending large retailers’ opening hours on a Sunday is not the “magic answer” to the country’s economic problems.

Currently shops over 280m2 are only permitted to open for a maximum of six hours on a Sunday, between ten o’clock and six o’clock, although this restriction has been temporarily lifted, throughout the six-week duration of the Olympics and Paralympics. In response to this trial periods there have been calls to change the laws, including support from the Institute of Directors, whose spokesman, Mark Wallace said:

“We know there are people out of work or underemployed who desperately want more opportunities and we know there is an appetite among consumers to shop during normal hours on Sundays, so it is silly to have a rule that holds both groups back.”

However, despite standing to gain financially from such a move, Justin King said in a letter to the Telegraph:

“Maintaining Sunday’s special status has great merit for our customers and our colleagues, and relaxing Sunday Trading laws is certainly not a magic answer to economic regeneration. Sainsbury’s has put in place extended hours at only 30 of its 1,000 stores during the Games period.”

King’s comments will be welcomed by the ‘Keep Sunday Special’ campaign, led by union and church leaders. The Bishop of Oxford and John Hannett of shopworkers’ union Usdaw have said that the change would not bosst the economy and would lead to a “detrimental impact on family life” for retail staff and consumers.