Why do shops in the UK close early on Sundays?

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Don’t leave a Sunday shop too late (Picture: Getty Images)

Have you ever wondered why shops in the UK close early on a Sunday?

Supermarkets and retail stores are known to open later and close earlier at the end of the week, much to the dismay of shoppers who may want to close out their weekend with a new outfit or an M&S dine in for two.

If you’re from a country where shops operate within their normal opening times on a Sunday, it may seem strange. However, there is reasoning behind them closing their doors earlier than may be expected.

Why do shops close early?

There is actually a legal reason why shops shut early on Sundays.

The Sunday Trading Act 1994 states that large stores are only able to be open for trading for a maximum of six consecutive hours between the hours of 10am and 6pm.

As a general rule, most supermarkets and clothing stores tend to open between 10am and 4pm or 11am and 5pm.


Mother carrying a shopping basket, doing grocery shopping in supermarket
There are legal reasons behind the early closures (Credits: Getty Images)

While there have been many discussions surrounding Sunday trading hours, this law can protect workers from long hours and exploitation.

Without the Sunday law in place, employees may be overworked and feel the pressure to work for a full seven days each week – something that is not sustainable when trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Another reason for shops closing early on Sundays is for religious reasons. In many faiths, Sundays are known as the ‘day of rest’ and a time to worship.

Additionally, large shops must remain closed on Easter Sunday and Christmas Day.

More: Shopping

Have shops always closed early on Sundays?


A woman looking at a blouse in a shop
You might want to double check opening times on a Sunday (Picture: Getty Images)

Prior to the Sunday Trading Act 1994, it was illegal for shops to open at all on Sundays. In fact, it was illegal to do so for the majority of the 20th Century.

The Shops Act 1950 legislated that large shops were to remain closed on Sundays. Goods were not allowed to be shipped on Sundays, and many shops also had a half-day where doors would close early on a certain weekday, as decided by each local council. This was often a Tuesday or Wednesday.

Are any shops open late on Sundays?

Certain types of shops are exempt from the Sunday Trading Act 1994.

These include shops found in airports, railway stations, service stations and farms selling their own products.

Pharmacies that stock and sell only medicinal products and medical and surgical appliances can also trade during their normal hours on a Sunday.

More: Trending

How to find out what shops are open on a Sunday?

Most chain stores display store locators on their websites. This will usually display shop opening hours for each day of the week. Note that hours will vary from branch to branch.


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