UK

Boxing Day Petition Urging Theresa May To Stop Shops Opening Gains More Than 200,000 Signatures

'Forget making money for one day, let’s make more memories with the ones we love.'

12/12/2016 10:16 GMT | Updated 12/12/2016 10:36 GMT

A petition urging Theresa May to prevent shops from opening on Boxing Day has gained the support of hundreds of thousands of people.

At the time of writing, a petition on Change.org had gathered more than 220,000 signatures.

The petition read: “Shops, especially supermarkets, do not need to open on Boxing Day. Whilst not everyone may see Christmas as a religious holiday, it should be respected as such, and retail workers (who work so hard on the run up to the big day) given some decent family time to relax and enjoy the festivities like everyone else.

Andrew Milligan/PA Archive
Shoppers in Harvey Nichols department store in Edinburgh during the Boxing Day sales

“Most retail workers are on the go up to Christmas Eve, then back on Boxing Day. Sometimes they have no choice. We managed 30 and 40 years ago...when shops were sometimes shut for a whole week. Let’s get back to the way it was.

“Forget making money for one day, let’s concentrate on making more memories with the ones we love.”

MPs are to discuss the issue in a Westminster Hall debate on Monday, led by Labour MP Helen Jones.

Jones, who chairs the Petitions Committee, said the current system of Boxing Day sales exploits lower paid workers and deprives them of time with their families over the festive period, the Press Association reported.

The British Retail Consortium says Boxing Day has been a popular shopping day for years.

The Government’s response to the petition said it is not for them to tell businesses how best to run their shops and it is not proposing a ban.

Jane Barlow/PA Archive
Early morning shoppers queue in hope of a bargain on Boxing Day

But Jones said evidence submitted to her committee’s online forum has convinced her that the Government should take action.

She told the Press Association: “I went from feeling quite indifferent about Boxing Day openings to believing it does exploit very low paid workers, who often have to work late on Christmas Eve to get the shops ready and then have to go in very early on Boxing Day morning.”

Jones said staff faced serious problems with public transport and childcare around Christmas, while additional pay for working these unseasonal hours had all but disappeared across the sector.

The Warrington North MP added: “What I’ve not seen is anything to convince me that Boxing Day generates extra trade, as opposed to just moving it from another day.

“No one died because a shop was shut, and I think we are exercising our freedom to shop whenever we want on the backs of some very low-paid workers, who are being exploited and being denied the freedom to expect to have the time with their families.”

Almost 6,000 comments were submitted to the Petition Committee’s online forum, the vast majority of which backed store closures.

UK shoppers spent £3.74 billion in the Boxing Day sales in 2015, according to research from VoucherCodes.co.uk and the Centre for Retail Research - a 6% increase on 2014.

Rick Findler/PA Archive
Shoppers flock to Regent Street on Boxing Day

A House of Commons Library report states 365,000 people in the UK retail industry worked on Boxing Day in 2014, which equated to 12% of those employed in the retail sector. 

A British Retail Consortium spokeswoman said: “Individual retailers and employers in other sectors such as hospitality will make their own decisions on holiday staffing based on their customers’ needs and preferences.

“Boxing Day has for years been a popular shopping day as customers take advantage of the Christmas sales, and retailers will respond accordingly to cater for customer demand.

“Most retailers offer flexible shift patterns to ensure time off is distributed fairly among those who don’t wish to work throughout the holiday period.”

Responding to the petition, the Government said: “We do not believe it is for central Government to tell businesses how to run their shops or how best to serve their customers.

“Therefore we are not proposing to ban shops from opening on Boxing Day.”