As announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne in his budget, plans are being put in place to extend Sunday trading hours across the UK, which currently prevent businesses opening for more than six hours, sparking concern that some retailers may not have adequate IT service and maintenance contracts in place to support longer trading hours.
Extended trading hours are likely to be of benefit to many retailers, allowing them to increase their footfall and generate further sales, but, as highlighted by Barron McCann, who specalise in providing outsourced break-fix maintenance and managed IT services for retailers across the UK, only if they can support their IT services during the extended hours and are able to maintain the same level of service as seen throughout the rest of the week.
For some retailers, current IT support service agreements may not account for the increase in weekly trading hours, meaning the business could be left without any support should issues arise outside of pre-arranged hours. Before making any decisions on Sunday hours, it is vital that retailers review their current IT support service agreements and ensure they have the correct level of coverage in place.
Many retailers may also look to hire new staff due to the increased strain on their current workforce. An influx of new and potentially inexperienced employees may mean an increased risk of downtime and other issues resulting from a lack of proper training. It is therefore important that businesses ensure their equipment is reliable, good SLA agreements are in place with either manufacturers or a third party IT service support provider like Barron McCann, and a good training programme is offered to ensure that any IT breakdowns are not due to human error.
It is likely that extended hours will vary across the country, as it will be up to councils and elected mayors to decide whether to or not to implement these changes. Retailers should therefore look for a supplier who offers flexible options and can offer different Service Level Agreements for different areas and stores, rather than a uniform, 'one-size-fits-all' approach which may not necessarily be suitable.
Alan Watson, MD at Barron McCann said: "The proposed extended Sunday trading hours may be a blessing for many retailers, but if their IT support is not up to scratch then more damage could be done than good. 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. 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."