Licence - Sunday trading 

The Sunday Trading Act 1994

The Sunday Trading Act 1994 regulates the Sunday opening hours of large shops and prohibits them from opening on Easter Sunday.

Under the Sunday Trading Act 1994, the restrictions on shop opening hours are:

  • Small shops (up to 280sq m/3,000 sq ft) - no restrictions on opening hours
  • Large shops (over 280 sq m/3,000 sq ft)

Monday to Saturday - no restrictions

Sunday - can only open for 6 continual hours between 10am and 6pm. Easter Sunday - closed.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

  1. Do shops need to notify local authorities of their Sunday opening hours?
    A regulatory Reform Order came into force on 27 February 2004, removing the requirement for large shops in England and Wales to give prior written notification to their local authority of their Sunday opening hours.
  2. What goods can be sold on a Sunday?
    The Sunday Trading Act 1994 regulates shop opening hours. It does not regulate the sale of particular goods.
  3. How does the Sunday Trading Act affect street markets and car boot sales?
    The Sunday Trading Act 1994 regulates shop opening hours. It does not regulate street markets or car boot sales (external link). These are subject to separate local planning legislation.
  4. Why are large garden centres not able to open on Easter Sunday?
    This was considered by Parliament in 1994 during the passage of the Sunday Trading Bill. An amendment proposing that large garden centres should be exempt from closing on Easter Sunday was defeated on a free vote in both Houses.
  5. Are shops allowed to open on Christmas Day?
    The Christmas Day (Trading) Act 2004 (external link) came into force on 9 December 2004, prohibiting large shops (over 280 sq m/3,000 sq ft) from opening on Christmas Day.
  6. What is the special protection for Sunday working in shops?
    Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, in England and Wales, shop workers (other than those employed to work solely on Sundays) have the right to opt out of working on Sundays.
  7. What large shops are exempt from the restrictions?
    Under the Sunday Trading Act 1994 (external link), the following types of shop are exempt:
  • Any shop at a designated airport, in a railway station, at a highway service area or  at any petrol filling station
  • Any shop where the trade or business carried on consists wholly or mainly of the sale of alcohol/motor or cycle supplies and accessories
  • Registered pharmacies which are not open for the retail sale of any goods other than medical and surgical goods
  • Farm shops where the trade consists wholly, or mainly, of the sale of produce (crops or reared animals) from that farm.
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