Sunday shopping refers to the ability of retailers to operate stores on Sunday, a day that Christian tradition typically recognizes as the Sabbath, a « day of rest ». Rules governing shopping hours, such as Sunday shopping, vary around the world but someEuropean nations continue to ban Sunday shopping. Sabbatarian Christians which observe Saturday as the Sabbath day oppose such laws.
Sunday shopping by country
The situation in Australia is not uniform, as each of its States and Territories has its own different laws. Historically, shops closed for the weekend on Saturday afternoons, with South Australia being the first state to allow Saturday afternoon opening. Most states now allow Sunday opening for up to seven hours, at least in metropolitan areas.
Certain shops are generally made exempt, or partially exempt, from trading hours laws (including restrictions on Sunday trading) under certain conditions. Shops that are not exempt from trading hours restrictions are referred to as « general » or « non-exempt » shops. Although these vary from state to state, generally speaking, exemptions can be based on one or more of the following:
a maximum number of employees employed by the shop, or staffed at any one time (for example, New South Wales exempts shops with no more than four staff at any one time),
by the floor size of the shop (for example, South Australia exempts shops with a floor space of less than 200m2),
by the type of goods the shop sells – for example, hardware and furniture shops are often partially exempted, while shops such as newsagents, flowers, certain food shops (other than supermarkets) and chemists are often fully exempt, or
by its location, often in significant tourist areas – either by inclusion, or by exclusion – ie. declaring that trading hours outside of designated areas are deregulated.
New South Wales
General shops must apply for an exemption for trading on Sundays and public holidays, which are granted if the shop is « serving predominantly the tourist or visitor trade, significant public demand or operates in a holiday resort area ». In practice, Sunday trading is commonplace, with six or seven hours’ trading within the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. being the norm in metropolitan areas. The two Sundays prior to Christmas Day are completely unrestricted.
General exemptions apply for the Sydney CBD, Cabramatta, Newcastle, and other declared local government areas, where shops are only forced to close on Christmas Day. Exemptions are also typically granted on a local government-wide basis; when one general shop has been exempted, other shops will generally be exempted for the same hours in the same council area.
Trading hours are deregulated in Victoria; shopping is allowed at any time, except for Anzac Day morning (before 1 p.m.), Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Christmas Day. Victoria is also famous for first introducing round the clock 36 hour shopping before Christmas, even if this fell on a Sunday. In Victoria Boxing Day is also one of the busiest days of the shopping year, and many stores are opened extended hours even if it falls on a Sunday.
Non-exempt shops in Queensland are permitted to trade from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the South East Queensland region (including Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast), and from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in certain coastal towns north of Brisbane. Outside of these areas, non-exempt shops must remain closed on Sundays.
South Australia introduced Sunday trading for non-exempt shops in 2003. Non-exempt shops are restricted to opening between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. in the Adelaide metropolitan area. Trading hours are also restricted in a number of « Proclaimed Shopping Districts » in country South Australia, where non-exempt shops must remain closed on Sunday. Local governments can apply to have their Proclaimed Shopping District altered or abolished.
General retail shops in the Perth metropolitan area must remain closed on a Sunday. Western Australia does have exemptions based on size and type of goods sold, as well as declared areas in the Perth CBD and Fremantle that allow Sunday trading from 12 noon until 6 p.m., except on public holidays. Sunday trading outside of the Perth metropolitan area may be varied by application from the local council.
Most recently, voters in Western Australia were asked in a referendum held in February 2005: « Do you believe that the Western Australian community would benefit if trading hours in the Perth Metropolitan Area were extended to allow general retail shops to trade for 6 hours on Sunday? » This proposal was rejected by 59.56 per cent to 37.46 per cent.
Trading hours in Tasmania have been deregulated since 2002-12-01, with shops only being forced to close on Christmas Day, Good Friday, and ANZAC Day morning. . Previously, businesses with more than 250 employees were not permitted to trade on Sundays. This restriction can be gazetted by the relevant minister for these shops, but only on the advice of a local council, and only after a referendum of voters in that local government area is carried.
Australian Capital Territory
Trading hours in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) have been deregulated since the repeal of the Trading Hours Act 1996 on 29 May 1997. The 1996 act restricted trading of « large supermarkets » to between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Sundays, provided other trading hours were not gazetted by the relevant minister. Large supermarkets were those with greater than 400m2 in floor area, and located in the City or the Belconnen, Woden and Tuggeranong Town Centres.
In 1982, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the Lord’s Day Act. However, at that time, only the Canadian Bill of Rights existed. That document only protected existing Canadian rights. As a result, the Court noted that Canada was an overwhelmingly Christian country that had accepted Sunday closing laws for years. The Court determined that the Lord’s Day Act did not force people to practice Christianity or stop practicing their own religion.
However, later that year, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was introduced, ensuring freedom of conscience and religion, regardless of existing federal or provincial laws. On April 24, 1985 – the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Lord’s Day Act violated Canadians’ freedom of religion. The 1985 ruling examined the original purpose of the act. It found that the Christian value of keeping the Sabbath holy had been incorporated into a law that affected all Canadians, Christian or not. This law — the Lord’s Day Act — prevented non-Christians from performing otherwise legal activities on Sundays. This was inconsistent with the Canadian charter.
Until October 4, 2006, Nova Scotia was the only province in Canada that prohibited year-round Sunday shopping. An experiment with the practice was held in 2003 and in 2004 a binding plebiscite was held which resulted in 45% of voters in favour of Sunday shopping and 55% voting against the practice. The Retail Business Uniform Closing Day Act allowed some stores, such as video rental outlets, pharmacies and book stores, to open on Sundays, but department stores had to remain closed. The restrictions were based on the area of a store and its form of business.
By mid-2006, several grocers in Nova Scotia including Pete’s Frootique and larger chains such as Atlantic Superstore and Sobeys circumvented the law by reconfiguring their stores on Sundays into separate businesses, each of which was small enough in area to be exempt from the Retail Business Uniform Closing Day Act. For
example, a Halifax-area Sobeys location was known as the « Sobeys Queen Street Mall » and housed the Sobeys Retail Fish Store Ltd., Sobeys Fruit Stand Ltd., Sobeys Bakery and Bulk Food Ltd. and eight other separate « businesses ».
On June 23, 2006, the Premier of Nova Scotia, Rodney MacDonald, announced new limits on Sunday shopping as a means to honour the wishes of voters in the 2004 plebiscite. The proposed new regulations prohibited grocers and other retailers from opening if they reconfigured their businesses as separate operating units after June 1, 2006. The premier also announced that he would seek the views of the public in a new plebiscite to coincide with municipal elections scheduled for 2008.
On July 2, 2006 members of the Halifax Regional Police entered the Barrington Street Atlantic Superstore in Halifax with measuring tapes and began an investigation to see if the grocer was in compliance with the Retail Business Uniform Closing Day Act. Three days later, on July 5, 2006, Sobeys filed a motion in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia to have the Retail Business Uniform Closing Day Act and the new regulations announced by Premier MacDonald to be declared invalid. Sobeys was joined byAtlantic Superstore in the case, who entered by seeking intervener status.
Sobeys felt that the law was unjust since it permitted competitors such as Pete’s Frootique in Bedford to open Sundays. Pete’s Frootique had taken the provincial government to court seven years earlier and won the right to open on Sundays with its separate operating divisions, thus it was « grandfathered » in the new regulations announced by Premier MacDonald.
On October 4, 2006, the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia ruled that the Government of Nova Scotia had over-stepped its authority by forcing the supermarkets to close. In response, Premier Rodney MacDonald announced that effective Sunday, October 8, Sunday shopping would be an unrestricted option open to all retail stores, and can be open on all holidays except Remembrance Day, for which there was a separate provincial law forcing all businesses to close. Since then, Sunday shopping has been adopted throughout the province.
Retail Business Holidays Act (1990) of Ontario originally prohibited most stores from opening on Sundays. However, there were many exceptions to this rules (for example, gas stations, convenience stores, tourist areas). Many store owners who opposed the law decided to open their stores on Sundays, knowing the fact that they were breaking the law.
In June 1990, Ontario Supreme Court found that Retail Business Holidays Act unconstitutional. As a result, Ontario had nine months of open-wide Sunday shopping, until Ontario Court of Appeal’s reversal of the decision in March 1991.
However, public opposition to Sunday closing continued to rise. Bowing to public pressure, the Rae government passed the legislation in June 1992, to permit Sunday shopping in Ontario.
Other Canadian Provinces
Several other provinces have restrictions of some degree on Sunday shopping.
In Prince Edward Island, it is only permitted after 12PM from the Sunday before Victoria Day until Christmas Eve.
In Manitoba it requires municipal approval and it is only permitted from 12PM to 6PM each Sunday.
In New Brunswick the decisions require dual approval from municipal and provincial officials (although that is in the process of being changed), otherwise it is only permitted from August to the First Sunday in January. Some cities (such as Saint John andFredericton) restrict Sunday hours to 12PM to 5PM.
In the 1990s, Quebec allowed wide-open shopping from 8AM until 5PM; some stores (mainly supermarkets) could remain open later than 5PM, but they could not have more than four employees on staff after 5PM. The law was changed in the 2000s to allow supermarkets to remain open until 8PM with an unlimited number of employees.
Other provinces allow wide-open shopping all day on most Sundays (except when it falls on a holiday or when objected by municipalities).
Roman Catholic Church and some other minor organizations tried to influence the Croatian Government in order for Sunday shopping to be banned. Although it had worked for some time Croatian Constitutional Court declared it to be unconstitutional, and on April 28, 2004 issued a decision to make Sunday shopping legal. The Church admitted defeat in the battle over closing shops on Sundays. However, on July 15, 2008, the Parliament of Croatia, again under pressure from the Catholic Church, passed a new-old law banning Sunday shopping effective January 1, 2009. However, Sunday shopping ban was once again declared to be unconstitutional by Croatian Constitutional Court on July 19, 2009 . Catholic Church admitted defeat once again.
In 2008, the furniture chain IKEA was fined over $700,000 (€850,000) for trading on Sundays under the law of 1906.
In Germany, opening hours have long been restricted through the Ladenschlussgesetz. The 1956 law required shops to close for the weekend at 2 p.m. on a Saturday and 6:30 p.m. on weeknights, with opening until 6 p.m. on the first Saturday of the month, in what was known as the Langer Samstag, or « longer Saturday ». The law was changed, in the face of strong resistance from labour unions, to allow langer Donnerstag (« longer Thursday ») until 8:30 p.m. in 1988, and in 1996 opening times were extended to 8 p.m. from Monday to Friday and 4 p.m. on Saturday; this was extended to 8 p.m. on Saturday in 2004.
In 2004, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled against  lifting restrictions on Sunday opening, which is still confined to some small bakeries and convenience stores inside railway stations and airports. However, in 2006, the responsibility for opening hours was transferred to the state governments instead of the federal government, leading to an end to regulated Monday-Saturday opening hours in several states, such as Berlin. However, there is still strong resistance to Sunday shopping from churches and politicians. The leadership of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has expressed an interest in allowing Sunday shopping.
While Sunday is a holiday or day of rest, shopping hours are not regulated and vary across the territory:
Hong Kong Island (Central & Western) from 10am-7pm
Hong Kong Island along Queens’ Road from 10am-8pm
Hong Kong Island (Causeway Bay & Wan Chai) from 10am-9:30pm
Kowloon (Tsim Shat Sui & Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok) from 10am-9pm
Republic of Ireland
There has been no recent legislation regarding Sunday trading in the Republic of Ireland, which is regulated by the Shops (Hours of Trading) Act 1938.
This Act confers on the responsible minister the right to control trading, and also lays down certain types of business which are exempt, i.e. types of business can open on Sundays, but only for the sale of certain items. However, major chains (supermarkets, DIY, household goods, clothing etc.) open their branches throughout the Republic on Sundays usually from 10am to 7pm in the larger cities and from noon to 6pm in the smaller centres. In Dublin, almost all shops are open on a Sunday.
Some supermarkets, such as Tesco, are open around the clock, every day. Many smaller shops, most petrol stations, some food service outlets, and other retailers such as pharmacies are also open permanently.
In The Netherlands, all communities are (in principle) allowed to open shops for twelve Sundays a year. However, in the Christian-dominated ‘Bible belt’ area, little use is made of this due to severe pressure from conservative Christians claiming Sunday as the day for worship only. Communities with a high tourist profile (a rather vague definition) are allowed to open shops on Sundays year-round. In the seat of government, The Hague, shops are allowed to open on all Sundays. In the two o
ther big cities, Amsterdam (the capital) and Rotterdam, this is the case for the city centre only. However, in late 2009, both cities had ongoing discussions to extend Sunday shopping to areas outside the (touristic) city centre. There are several sites where you can check which local community Sunday shoping ‘events’ take place. When shops are allowed to open their doors, its called a ‘buysunday’ or in Dutch ‘koopzondag’.
New Zealand, which banned trading on Saturday and Sunday completely between 1945 and 1980, liberalised shopping hours in 1990. Shops may open at any time, with the exception of Good Friday, Easter Sunday, ANZAC Day and Christmas Day. Certain types of shops, such as petrol stations and dairies, are specifically excluded from this restriction and are still allowed to trade on these days. However, outside the main cities, shops still close for the weekend on Saturday afternoons.
In Norway only gas stations and a few shops are allowed to operate on Sundays. For special occasions such as Christmas shopping there are exceptions.
Commercial liberalisation during the 1980s allowed Sunday shopping with no restrictions. However, due to pressure from the small independent shops, certain restrictions were introduced in the 1990s. Currently, each autonomous community may establish its own Sunday opening calendar. The general trend is to allow Sunday opening once a month (usually the first Sunday) and every Sunday during special shopping seasons (including Christmas and sales). Certain sectors (including bars, restaurants, bakeries and bookshops) are granted an exception and may open every Sunday with no restrictions.
Religious concerns have been notably absent from the debate. The main bone of contention lies in the competition between big department stores, supermarkets and shopping centers, who push for complete liberalisation, and small family-run shops, who cannot afford extra staff to open on Sundays.
Federal labour law in Switzerland generally prohibits the employment of staff on Sundays. The law provides for exceptions for very small shops, shops in certain tourist areas as well as shops in major train stations and airports. The latter provision was adopted in a 2005 popular referendum in which it was opposed by labor unions and conservative Christian groups. Moreover, the cantons may allow shops to open on up to four sundays a year.
Pursuant to an ordinance of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, the following train stations and airports are allowed to include shops that are open on Sundays: Aarau, Baden, Basel SBB, Bellinzona, Berne, Biel, Brig, Chur, Frauenfeld, Fribourg,Geneva, Lausanne, Lugano, Lucerne, Neuchâtel, Olten, Schaffhausen, Solothurn, St. Gall, Thun, Uster, Visp, Wil, Winterthur, Zug, Zürich Enge, Zürich Hauptbahnhof, Zürich Oerlikon, Zürich Stadelhofen; Berne Airport, Geneva Cointrin International Airport,Lugano Airport, Sion Airfield, St. Gallen-Altenrhein Airport, Zürich Airport.
Sunday trading in England and Wales was not generally permitted until 1994. This meant that shops such as department stores and supermarkets were not able to open legally. A number of specialist outlets were able to open legally, including garden centres, small « corner » or family run shops, and chemists.
An earlier attempt by Margaret Thatcher’s government to allow Sunday shopping in 1986 was defeated in Parliament, with opposition coming from Conservative MPs who saw it as a threat to family life and church attendance, and Labour MPs who were concerned about workers’ rights. This led to the formation of the Keep Sunday Special campaign, backed by church groups and USDAW, the trade union representing shop workers.
Large outlets are those with over 3,000 square feet (280 m2) of retail area.
Several large outlets challenged the legal ruling in force before 1994 by opening on Sundays (or simply ignored them, since the fines were far lower than their Sunday profits) , and the outcome was that large stores are now able to open for up to 6 hours on Sunday between the hours of 10am and 6pm, in practice this means that they open from 10am to 4pm or 11am to 5pm or 12pm to 6pm. Supermarkets usually open from 10am-4pm, whereas most other businesses open (and close) later.Christmas Day and Easter Sunday have been excluded as trading days. This applies even to garden centres, which earlier had been trading over Easter. Details of the changes to the legislation are included in the Sunday Trading Act 1994. In 2006, the government considered further relaxation of the permitted hours of business but decided that there was no consensus for change, although a popular poll indicated differently.  Some local councils require official permission before allowing a store to open on Sundays.
Since the 1994 Act allowed stores to open, stores seem to keep to it meticulously, perhaps moreso than before when they were flagrantly breaching the law by opening at all. However, there is a tendency, especially during Advent, to open half an hour earlier but not allow sales before the allotted time, to allow people to « browse » and thus effectively extend the opening hours of the store without breaking the law. For example in Birmingham in 2005 several stores opened seven hours, 10.30am-5.30pm, but would not have been able to sell throughout that time without breaking the law.
In Scotland, there was no specific legislation regarding Sunday trading, it being left to the discretion of local councils. Consequently, opening hours are longer than in England and Wales, and large supermarkets remain open 24-7. In the Western Isles, where the Free Church of Scotland has a considerable following, there has been virtually no commercial activity on Sundays until recently. In many small towns and villages shops will still remain closed on Sunday. Unlike England and Wales there is no restriction on Easter Sunday opening and therefore this is a normal shopping day.
In Northern Ireland, Sunday shopping is regulated under the Sunday Trading (Northern Ireland) Order 1997. Opening hours are more limited, usually between 1pm and 6pm. This was to create a greater gap between Sunday services and the opening of large shops, in response to objections from churches, which have more influence than in the rest of the UK. Pubs were not allowed to open on Sunday in Northern Ireland until 1989. These laws make Belfast one of the few capital cities in Europe to have absolutely no 24 hour shops in its city centre.
Many stores in the United States have reduced hours of operation on Sundays (most often 11 a.m. or noon to 5 or 6 p.m.), although the recent trend has led to expansion. A few local municipalities still prohibit Sunday shopping, and many others prohibit it until a certain time (most often noon or 1 p.m.), especially in regard to selling alcohol.
One of the last major areas to completely prohibit Sunday shopping is Bergen County, New Jersey. This area contains one of the largest and most popular commercial shopping cores of the New York metropolitan area (for example, one of three localIKEA stores is found here, the store is the only one in the United States to be closed on Sunday). Ironically, the area is not considered to be particularly religious compared to the U.S. population at large; and it also has significant Jewish and Muslimpopulations whose observant members would not be celebrating the Sabbath on Sunday. But attempts to repeal the law have failed as many locals either like to keep the law on the books as a protest against the growing trend of increased Sunday shopping activity in American society or fear the potential increase of Sunday traffic on major local roads such as Rt. 4 or Rt. 17. Some local Orthodox Jews who are off both days of the weekend have complained about the law because it limits their ability
to get shopping done on the weekend without having to travel to a neighboring county as religious beliefs prohibit shopping on Friday night or on Saturday before sunset, which in the summer can be right before most department stores and malls close.
A number of states (notably Indiana and Georgia) completely prohibit alcohol sales on Sundays, a measure which has ties to prohibition. Alcohol can still be served in restaurants and bars on Sunday in Georgia at the discretion of county, city, or other local ordinances.