Big Losers with Relaxed Sunday Trading Laws



Sales executives don’t get a great deal of love and sympathy in our society, it has to be said. When you then narrow that down to car sales executives in particular, you’ll really struggle to find anyone championing their cause. However, when it comes to the proposed relaxing of our Sunday trading laws, few people in our society are likely to suffer as much as those that make their living selling vehicles to the general public.

I will declare a slight vested interest here, as I was in car sales at various levels for the best part of a decade before becoming a motoring writer. The proposed relaxing of Sunday trading therefore makes no difference to my life, but I can’t help thinking what an effect it would have had on me if I was still in car sales.

BMW5While much is made of how all-day opening on Sundays will put pressure on the likes of supermarket employees to work longer hours, at least they will get paid for it. Being bullied into working longer on a Sunday than you already are is bad enough, but how would you feel if you were told to do it for nothing? You may think that is preposterous and unthinkable in these days of the minimum wage and the working time directive, but that is exactly what will happen to car sales executives if the shackles are taken off.

At the moment, car dealerships are only able to open for up to six hours on a Sunday. That’s bad enough, but guess what will happen if this restriction is removed? Instead of working between say 11am and 4pm, they will be told by most companies to open at 9am and stay open until 6 or 7pm, as they do during the week. The reward for giving up an extra four or five hours of their lives? Nothing! As sales execs are salaried and not paid by the hour, they will simply be told to do it for no extra money at all.

Inevitably, employers will try to smooth this over by suggesting the sales people will earn more commission because longer opening will mean more cars being sold. If anyone thinks that more people will change their cars because dealerships are open longer on a Sunday, they are either living in cloud cuckoo land, or more likely they are a director of a large car dealer group.

The retail motor industry already pays sales execs less today than it did 15 years ago, and that isn’t adjusted to account for inflation, most sales jobs now pay lower basics and less commission than they did in the 1990s.

If anyone out there thinks I’m offering a completely biased view, just go into a car dealership on a Sunday and try buying a part for your car or booking it in for a service. You won’t be able to because the parts and service departments don’t open on a Sunday. The reason for that? Most of the staff are paid hourly, and the businesses won’t pay the extra to have them in on a day that is notoriously quiet. Sales execs are salaried, so they may as well squeeze them until the pips squeak.

So, when you next hear a shop steward or a small business owner rallying against a retail free-for-all on a Sunday, spare a thought for car sales executives and their families. Not only will they have less time together on a Sunday, they won’t be getting paid for the extra hours either.


Written by Sean Cooper

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