By Tania Jacquier
A LEADING toy chain will not be opening in West Yorkshire this Christmas Eve – in line with its owner’s religious beliefs.
Gary Grant, owner of The Entertainer, has vowed to put God before profits in not opening on Sundays, which this year includes Christmas Eve.
This is despite opening his newest store in Huddersfield, just two weeks before Christmas. The Entertainer already has two shops in Leeds.
A self-described ‘charismatic evangelical’ christian, Mr Grant’s shops have never opened on Sundays.
He said: “In ’95, when Sunday trading became legal, God challenged me, ‘are you going to give up Sunday trading?’. Keeping the Sabbath holy is one of the ten commandments, so I felt that I shouldn’t be opening the doors on a Sunday.
“For many of our 1,700 staff, they say that the fact that they can have a day off with the family on a Sunday is really important to them, regardless of what they believe.”
He estimated that if they were to open on Christmas Eve this year, they could take around 1.5% of their annual turnover, but says that staying closed is worth it.
He said: “God doesn’t owe me anything, but it says in the bible that he will honour those who honour him, and I will give him all the praise and glory.”
The Entertainer is indeed going from strength to strength. It has opened 16 new stores this year and is having its best year for both turnover and profit since it opened in 1981.
However this is the first time that Christmas Eve has fallen on a Sunday since 2006, when they had fewer than half of the 149 stores they have now.
Mr Grant added: “People have said ‘what, even with Christmas even being a Sunday, you’re closed?’
“And I say ‘well, what’s the difference? The principle is a day of rest, and a good number of the staff, from now until Christmas, may well be working 6 days a week, and long days – they have given their all, and they need a break.’ And on a seven day cycle, that’s what Sundays are.”
Lewis Allen, the pastor of Hope Church, Huddersfield, was impressed by Mr Grant’s stance.
He said: “He may well win some admirers. Who wants to lose the revenue which this crucial shopping day will bring in? The answer is found on Christmas Day itself. Jesus Christ came for compulsive shoppers who are needy sinners. It’s worth staying in and giving some thought to. The shopping – this year, at least – can wait.”
The Entertainer are part of the Keep Sunday Special campaign, in partnership with the Union of Shop, Distributive, and Allied Workers (USDAW).
An USDAW spokesperson praised Mr Grant’s decision, saying: “Staff in retail work very long hours in the run-up to Christmas.
“Our members tell us that they need time off to recuperate as well as to spend time with their family and friends. That is especially important when they have children for whom Christmas is such a special time.”
The Huddersfield store is due to open in the Kingsgate centre on Saturday, December 9. Most of the other stores in Kingsgate will be open on Christmas Eve.
Kingsgate has a footfall of around 150,000 people a month, but in December this shoots up to 230,000. On Christmas Eve itself, there were 37,674 shoppers last year, around 7,000 more than on a typical Saturday.