Helen Jones MP: UK has an ‘obsession with shopping’

IMG_7698.JPG
Christmas display

Helen Jones MP suggested the UK has an ‘obsession with shopping’ at yesterday’s Parliament debate on whether they should ban retailers opening on Boxing Day.

Labour MP Helen Jones argued that Boxing Day should be a day spent with family, instead of an opportunity for staff exploitation.

Following an online petition which gathered more than 100,000 signatures urging the government to ban Boxing Day shopping, MPs had different opinions during the debate.

Torry MP Andrea Jenkyns said the country ‘should not bite the hand that feeds us’, implying that not opening on Boxing Day would be damaging to retailers.

Oklahoma, Northern Quarter 2
Credit: Yoana Nikolova

Iona Wills, Marketing manager of independent retailer Oklahoma in Northern Quarter said: “It’s quite important to us as a business that we stay closed on Boxing Day.

“In the run up to Christmas we’re very busy and all of our staff members work very hard and we want to give them the time off they deserve.”

Oklahoma has never opened on Boxing Day in the 19 years since it was established.

Iona said that giving their staff the day off to spend with their families is an important value of Oklahoma because it is ‘very sad’ to work such long hours in the lead up to Christmas and not to get enough time to rest.

She said: “The sales on Boxing Day can be really good, but to us, it’s more important that the staff get that time off, rather than making us profits.

“Every business makes their own decisions, but I definitely think that for us, being a small independent business, it’s important that we stay closed and I hope our customers can appreciate that.”

Currently, there is no law regulating trading hours on Boxing Day, unless December 26 happens to fall on a Sunday.

WATCH: Local residents react to Helen Jones’ comments on stores closing on Boxing day

The government has said it will not tell retailers ‘how to run their shops or how best to serve their customers’.

A small business owner from Manchester said the government cannot decide on behalf of businesses.

He said: “The government have too much say in what we do as it is.
“If businesses want to open on Boxing Day, they have their own reasons to do so.”

The online petition, which gathered 138,235 signatures, calls for Boxing Day to be protected by trading hours law similar to Christmas Day and Easter Day.

It claims: “Christmas is a family time. The one day is not enough time to see two sides of families. Retail workers work extremely hard during the Christmas run up and only get the one day.

“If only everywhere could be closed Boxing Day! Some things are needed over the festive period; retail isn’t one of them.”

Labour MP Ms Jones said employees were being exploited and suggested that many retailers didn’t even see a rise in sales, but opened simply because everyone else did.

She said: “I doubt very much anything would change if they did not start until the 27th.

“So many of us, like me, say Boxing Day is our day of rest. That is not available to many people in retail.”

The government’s answer to the online petition 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.”

According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2014, 365,000 people in the UK retail industry worked on Boxing Day.