Antrim and Newtownabbey stores refused extended trading on Christmas Eve

A request to Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council for extended opening hours on Christmas Eve has been turned down.
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Businesses are being advised current legislation in Northern Ireland does not permit such an extended trading period as that requested for Sunday, December 24, 2023.

A report presented to councillors at a meeting of the council on Monday evening stated “under the provisions of Article six of the Shops (Sunday Trading) (Northern Ireland) Order 1997, extended times for Sunday trading are only permitted where the borough has been designated as a holiday resort and even in this case, the designation is limited to the summer months”.

The council has received correspondence from Marks and Spencer requesting an extension to store trading hours on Sunday, December 24, beyond the current 1pm until 6pm. The request is for the store to open from 9am until 6pm on Christmas Eve.

Marks & Spencer, Newtownabbey. Photo by:  Google MapsMarks & Spencer, Newtownabbey. Photo by:  Google Maps
Marks & Spencer, Newtownabbey. Photo by: Google Maps

The report stated “the company feels that opening earlier on Christmas Eve would allow shoppers more time in a less congested and pressured environment”.

“It also highlights positive benefits in relation to easing traffic congestion and stress on employees, as well as the overtime opportunities generated during the current cost of living crisis,” councillors were advised.

Members also heard that similar requests have been received from Lidl supermarket and the Abbey Centre shopping complex.

Council officers have recommended retailers are advised current legislation does not permit extended trading hours beyond 1pm until 6pm on Sunday, December 24, 2023.

Abbey Centre. Photo: Google MapsAbbey Centre. Photo: Google Maps
Abbey Centre. Photo: Google Maps
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In December 2020, during the Covid pandemic, the council approved extended Sunday trading during the festive period when large retail outlets in Antrim and Newtownabbey were allowed to trade longer hours.

The decision meant that retail outlets in excess of 280 sq metres were able to trade on Sundays during December with opening at 10am until January 10 2021.

Retailers said at the time the relaxation would “facilitate safe shopping environments and social distancing for staff and customers and to allow the effective management of customer volumes”.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter