Asda has become the latest retailer to announce that its stores will not open on Boxing Day.
The supermarket’s chief executive, Roger Burnley, said the decision to close all 631 stores was in response to the government’s strict coronavirus guidelines, which mean households will only be able to meet between 23 and 27 December.
Thanking employees for the “incredible job” they have done under challenging circumstances, he added: “This is of course our busiest time of year.
“But it was important for us to give as many of you as possible the opportunity to spend this time with those loved ones that you may not have seen for many months so, uniquely for this year, we will not reopen our stores until 27 December.”
Asda staff who were meant to be working on Boxing Day will still be paid as usual.
Usdaw, which represents shop workers, has been among the unions calling for retailers to give their staff “the longest possible break over the festive season”.
The union’s general secretary, Paddy Lillis, said: “When the country faced a crisis unlike any in our lifetime, shopworkers stepped up and kept essential services running.
“They continued to work and faced increased levels of violence and abuse, as well as being worried about catching COVID-19.
“So we welcome Asda doing the right thing by their staff with the closure of stores on Boxing Day.”
GMB described the announcement as a “step in the right direction”, but national officer Roger Jenkins added: “It’s a shame that this is not extra holiday – workers will have to book a day of their annual leave entitlement.”
Marks & Spencer had been planning to open more than 200 of its stores on Boxing Day, but announced in late November that it was reversing this decision in light of the government guidelines.
At the time, M&S chief executive Steve Rowe said: “This Christmas, the celebrations we have will be more precious than ever.”
He added that closing on Boxing Day was “a big decision, but it is absolutely the right one given the incredible effort everyone has made in the most challenging of circumstances”.
Waitrose, John Lewis, Aldi, Wickes, Home Bargains, Homebase, Pets at Home and The Entertainer have also announced they will remain shut – even though this is normally when Boxing Day sales begin in earnest.