UK retailers have been warned to check their IT support contracts, in light of British chancellor George Osborne's Budget proposal to extend Sunday trading hours.

Alan Watson, managing director at retail support services provider Barron McCann, said although there is a potential revenue boost associated with this move, there is a danger that "more damage could be done than good" if tech support is not at the required level.

Osborne's emergency Budget speech earlier this month suggested plans are being put in place to extend the six-hour limit on Sunday opening hours for large retailers operating in the UK.

"The extended hours will inevitably put extra strain on businesses and their IT systems, meaning an increased risk of failure, so it is vital that managers review all essential services beforehand, and any issues are taken care of well before the changes are implemented," explained Watson.

"With the introduction of the new National Living Wage retailers will already be reviewing their costs, so it's important to also assess their current IT service maintenance contracts to ensure they are adequately covered should their Sunday trading hours be extended."

Baron McCann says that current IT support service agreements for some UK retailers may not account for the increase in weekly trading hours, meaning the businesses could be left without any help in the event of technology problems arising outside of agreed hours.

The organisation also warned that a potential influx of new and potentially inexperienced employees, as retailers look to staff their stores for the extra opening hours, may mean an increased risk of downtime and other issues resulting from a lack of proper training.

The chancellor's plans to investigate the extension of Sunday retail trading time have received mixed views from the wider industry.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has heavily criticised the move to allow individual local authorities to decide whether to remove Sunday trading rules, saying it will have a negative impact on independent retailers across the country.

CEO of ACS James Lowman said: "The plans outlined today will serve only to displace trade from small stores into larger stores, and could make many small stores operating on the edge of profitability unviable."

The British Retail Consortium's director general, Helen Dickinson, described Osborne's announcement as "a very significant step" but said the key issue will relate to how local authorities reach decisions around the change of timings.

"Effective consultation with business and the community, clarity and certainty are essential," she noted.

"We will be looking very closely at the plans and working with our members to understand their views and priorities and develop and industry position as the consultation moves forward."

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Barron McCann

Association of Convenience Stores

BRC