Would the clocks moving forward permanently help retail businesses?

3 May, 2016 by Vera Hartmuth

Some may appreciate that extra hour in bed, while others may find it unnecessary, but like it or not Daylight Savings is part of our lives.

The UK Daylight Saving Bill was passed in 1916 during WWI in the hope that it would expose citizens to as much sun as possible. In particular, it would mean longer and lighter evenings in the summer.

Though it is a permanent fixture in British society, it is the subject of many discussions. Supporters argue that it helps save energy, reduce road accidents and crime. Detractors say daylight saving is bad for our health, reduces productivity an actually increases energy consumption.

One of the more interesting arguments surrounding Daylight Saving is whether we should adopt Daylight Savings Time (also known as British Summer Time) permanently, and whether if this was actioned, it would help businesses.

The pros of moving the clocks forward:

If the clocks were moved forward it would bring the UK in line with Central European Time. This would mean that London would work the same business hours as Brussels, Paris, Frankfurt and Milan.

For those businesses that operate internationally, this would help with staff overtime costs. As well as being in line with the major European cities, the UK would also have an extra hour of synchronicity with Beijing, Tokyo and other major Asian import and export markets.

But what would the impact be on retail? Does the change in time in the autumn drive people away from the high street and onto web stores instead and vice-versa in the spring? Does it put any extra pressure points around when people travel to stores having clicked to collect but wanting to travel in daylight. What about the change in buying mentality for shoppers given many of us feel an overwhelming sense of light in our lives when the clocks go forward in Spring – does it change our purchase behaviour? What about the implications that this seasonality might have on inventory requirements?

One of the biggest potential net gains would be on tourism, and in particular the retail industry that serves it. According to the Tourism Alliance the longer and brighter evenings could bring in an additional £3.5 billion a year to the tourism industry.

Conservative MP Rebecca Harris said, “The tourism industry has been crying out for extra daylight saving for years.” The additional money brought in by the tourism industry would create 60,000-80,000 new jobs — that alone could bring in £720 million. Businesses would need to stay open longer and tourists and locals would have more time to spend in shops. A report in 2010 also stated that the public would gain 235 post-work daylight hours.

The main reason Daylight Savings was introduced was to conserve energy, and this has been one of the main arguments for keeping Daylight Savings. But now it’s argued that this isn’t necessarily true.

A study from the University of Cambridge found that £485 million a year could be saved by having an extra hour of sunlight, because people would use less electricity and heating. That is the equivalent of removing the carbon emissions of 70,000 people.

It’s estimated that 0.5% of Britain’s energy is currently wasted in the winter. Elizabeth Garnsey, the academic behind the study at Cambridge said, “This is because it tends to get light in the mornings before most people are awake for quite a large part of the GMT period, whereas everybody is up and about in the early evening.”

Could this new found disposable income be spent in Britain’s retail markets, on and off-line?

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