Car giant gives staff Sundays off

SUNDAY as a day of rest, under attack from rapacious consumerismand an increasinglysecular society, now has an unlikely new defender: a car salesman who is putting principle before profit.

Peter Vardy, a devout Christian, is to close his chain of car showrooms across Scotland on Sundays, traditionally one of the most profitable days of the week, to allow staff to spend more time with their families.

Vardy believes that what he may gain in sales through Sunday opening, his staff lose in personal relationships. From next week, all his dealerships will be closed on Sundays. The move follows a successful

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pilot at Peter Vardy Ltd's Perth Vauxhall dealership, which began last October. During that spell, it received more than 100 e-mails from customers, with virtually all supporting the company for its decision

to keep Sunday special.

The closures come into effect at all Peter Vardy's six dealerships

in Edinburgh (BMW and Mini), Motherwell (Vauxhall and Chevrolet), Kirkcaldy (Vauxhall) and Perth (Vauxhall). While cynics might suggest

this is away ofcutting costs amid the recession, the company insists this is not the case.

Yesterday Vardy, chief executive of Peter Vardy Ltd, said: "I believe this can work across Scotland without impacting on our business. The UK is one of the few countries in Europe where Sunday openings have

become the norm."

The Vardy name is one of the motor industry's best known, having been established by Reg Vardy in 1923 and grown by his son, Sir Peter

Vardy. His son, also Peter, became chief executive of newly-formed Peter Vardy Ltd in 2006, after Reg Vardy plc was bought by Pendragon for 506 million. The company has about 300 staff.

The Sunday-closure pilot was welcomed by Peter Vardy staff. Gareth Toher, its customer manager, said: "It gives me more time to see

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my seven-year-old son. He lives 15 miles away and now he is able to come and spend a Saturday night with me as I do not need to be up early for work on Sunday."

In the Western Isles, where the Free Church of Scotland has a considerable following and where children's swings were once

padlocked on Sundays, there has been virtually no commercial activity on the Sabbath until recently. Yesterday, Rev Ian Galloway, convener of the Church in Society Council of the Church of Scotland, said: "I

think what Peter Vardy is doing is to put a value on Sunday that i s above money.

"A couple of months ago I was working in Germany and one Sunday I visited a good-sized town and there was not a single shop open.

People were out and about with family."