Shops will be allowed to trade around the clock in the run up to Christmas in order to recoup losses suffered during the coronavirus pandemic.
Retailers normally have to go through a lengthy process to apply to local authorities under the Town and Country Planning Act if they wish to extend hours outside the window of 9am to 7pm.
However, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has said he wants to remove the bureaucracy to encourage greater trade – allowing shops to open for up to 24 hours a day in the months of December and January.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said: “With these changes local shops can open longer, ensuring more pleasant and safer shopping with less pressure on public transport. How long will be a matter of choice for the shopkeepers and at the discretion of the council, but I suggest we offer these hard-pressed entrepreneurs and businesses the greatest possible flexibility this festive season.
“As local government secretary I am relaxing planning restrictions and issuing an unambiguous request to councils to allow businesses to welcome us into their glowing stores late into the evening and beyond.”
It comes after Mr Jenrick suggested some areas could be moved into a lower tier when the first 14-day review of the latest system of tiered local controls takes place in mid-December.
A record number of shops closed during the first half of 2020 due to the coronavirus lockdown, according to research from the Local Data Company and accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
A total of 11,000 chain operator outlets shut between January and August this year, while around 5,000 shops opened, leaving a net decline of 6,000 stores, almost double the drop during the same period last year.
Record stores, which will also be able to open for 24 hours a day, have had to adapt to the lockdown restrictions this year with many taking part in three Record Store Day events instead of the usual annual one.