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:
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.
Trading hours in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) have been deregulated since the repeal of the Trading Hours Act 1996 on 1997-05-29. 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 Civic or the Belconnen, Woden, and Tuggeranong town centres.
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.
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 by Atlantic 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.
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.
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 10:00 to 19:00 in the larger cities and from 12:00 to 18:00 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.
Commercial liberalisation during the eighties allowed Sunday shopping with no restrictions. However, due to pressure from the small individually - owned shops, certain restrictions were introduced in the nineties. In the current situation, each regional government (comunidades autónomas) may establish its own Sunday opening calendar. the general trend is allowing Sunday opening once a month (usually the first Sunday) and every Sunday during special shopping seasons (Christmas, Sales). Certain sectors (bars, restaurants, bakeries, 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, Bern, Biel, Brig, Chur, Frauenfeld, Freiburg, Geneva, Lausanne, Lugano, Luzern, Neuenburg, 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.
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.
Several large outlets challenged the legal ruling in force before 1994 by opening on Sundays, and the eventual 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.
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.
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 local Ikea 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 Muslim populations 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.
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