UK's Morrisons asks for longer Xmas trading hours

James Davey
Reuters Middle East

* Morrisons lobbying for longer trading hours on Dec. 23

* Morrisons CEO to meet UK business minister Thursday

* Wal-Mart's Asda backing Morrisons on issue

LONDON, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Wm Morrison Supermarkets,

Britain's fourth-biggest grocer, is lobbying government for

Sunday trading laws to be relaxed on Dec. 23 this year, arguing

that the second day before Christmas is usually the busiest

shopping day of the year.

With Dec. 23rd falling on a Sunday retailers are restricted

by law to opening for a maximum of six hours.

Morrisons wants an extension of two to three hours so it can

avoid chaotic scenes in stores, Chief Executive Dalton Philips

told reporters on Wednesday during a media visit to a store in

Camden, north London.

"(David) Cameron talked this week about an economic war. We

should be open longer on the 23rd, it's ridiculous," he said in

reference to a speech made by the Prime Minister at a

Confederation of British Industry conference on Monday that

called for a slashing of rules and regulations that are holding

back UK business.

"We did this during the Olympics and I think the government

needs to be consistent on that," Philips added, referring to a

relaxing of Sunday trading rules this summer.

Philips and Andy Clarke, chief executive of Wal-Mart's

Asda, Britain's second biggest supermarkets operator,

have written to Michael Fallon, minister of state for business,

on the issue and Philips will also meet with him on Thursday.

Last week Morrisons posted a worsening decline in sales and

parted company with its commercial director, saying it had to do

a better job of telling customers about policies such as its

emphasis on in-store butchers, bakers, fishmongers,

cheesemongers and greengrocers and its focus on producing much

of the food it sells - elements all show-cased in the Camden


"I think it's going to be a very competitive Christmas

market," said Philips.

Shares in the firm closed on Wednesday at 257 pence, valuing

the business at about 6.06 billion pounds ($9.66 billion).

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