Many shops in Kent not opening longer on Sundays

Bluewater shopping centre
Image caption Bluewater has seen more visitors on Sundays since extending its trading hours

Most stores in three Kent shopping centres have not extended their Sunday opening hours, despite a relaxation of the law.

A BBC Radio Kent survey found 16 out of 199 shops in Maidstone, Canterbury and Thanet are open for longer on Sundays.

During the Olympic and Paralympic Games some stores have been allowed to open on Sundays for longer than current legislation permits.

The relaxation of the Sunday trading law ends on 9 September.

'Hasn't worked out'

Under current legislation, shops in England and Wales measuring more than 280 sq m (3,000 sq ft) can open for a maximum of six hours between 10:00 and 18:00 on Sundays.

This limit has been lifted for the eight Sundays during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

At Canterbury's Whitefriars Centre nine out of 80 shops made use of this extension.

Centre manager Peter Scutt said: "There are considerable costs involved in staying open for longer hours, it's not something there's a proven demand for from customers."

At Westwood Cross, between Margate and Ramsgate, five out of 44 shops are opening longer on Sundays.

Its manager Tom Price said: "It hasn't worked out for us, the longer the stores are encouraged to trade then potentially the less profitable those trading hours."

'Down on footfall'

Paul Alcock, from The Mall in Maidstone, said he thought the relaxation of the Sunday trading law was to benefit bigger shopping centres to show visitors from abroad "that Britain was not closed".

"We were down on footfall and the shops were down on takings during the Olympic period, particularly on Sundays," he said.

Of the 75 shops at The Mall only two have extended their Sunday trading hours.

All of the 330 shops and 55 restaurants at Bluewater Shopping Centre, near Greenhithe, have opened for longer than usual over the past six Sundays.

The centre's general manager Robert Goodman said it had seen an increase in the number of customers visiting Bluewater on Sundays since it had extended opening hours but it was too early to say if shops' takings were up.

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