Retail Opening Hours in Europe: Regulation That Fails

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Nick Papakyriazis || CC

Regulation of retail opening hours is applicable in 14 out of 30 European countries. The range of the regulation varies widely across the countries, as evidenced by a variety of exemptions. This suggests that countries that regulate shop opening hours are confronted with the interests of workers, consumers, and business.

There are signs that bans fail to achieve their objectives: a number of European countries have gone through deregulation. For example, in 2016, in response to huge resistance from consumers, Hungary lifted the prohibition to work on Sundays

Finland has also revoked a ban in order to meet the interests of consumers. An important argument was that the neighboring Sweden did not apply any restrictions on working hours and received a lot off Finnish buyers on weekends. This led to reduced competitiveness of retail trade in Finland.

Therefore, it is expected that lifting restrictions will stimulate the economy and eliminate unfair distortions of competition between shops and e-commerce.

In addition to these countries, Sweden and Malta have removed the prohibition on Sunday trading too.

The table provides information on the regulation of shop opening hours in 30 European countries. The information is based on Euro Commerce data collected in March 2017 and updated for May 2018.

Member State

Monday – Friday

Saturday

Sunday/Public holidays

AUSTRIA Maximum opening time per week is 72 hours 06:00-21:00In Niederösterreich/ Lower Austria the earliest time to open is 5:00 06:00-18:00 CLOSEDExemptions allowed in Tourist areas
BELGIUM Federal Government is consulting on extending opening hours 06:00-20:00 06:00-21:00 day or Friday before a public holiday 06:00-20:00 06:00-21:00 if following Monday a public holiday CLOSED Exceptions:

If the retailer chooses an alternative closing day:

  1. All retail stores 08:00-12:00;
  2. Furniture and gardening shops 40 Sundays/year 06:00-20:00;
  3. Food chains with less than five employees, butchers, bakers, newsagents and tobacconists, florists, petrol stations 06:00 – 20:00.
  4. Other exceptions: on certain conditions 6 Sundays of choice/year for retail
  5. Tourist areas: Sunday opening 1 May – 30 September, on Christmas and Easter holidays, and a maximum of 13 other Sundays;
  6. Night shops: Food and household goods only18.00 to 7.00;
  7. Other cases: opening only on Sunday morning between 8:00 and 12:00.
BULGARIA Opening hours are common practice rather than formal regulation

Some supermarkets/hypermarkets are open 24 hours a day

Unrestricted Unrestricted Common practice: 10:00-17:00 Unrestricted Public holidays: common practice to close on 1 January.
CROATIA The Trade Act prescribes that opening hours are not restricted as long as the labour rights of workers are adhered to Unrestricted Unrestricted Unrestricted It is common practice for all stores to be closed on New Year’s, Easter Sunday and Christmas Day
CYPRUS Shops are allowed to open from 5.00 a.m. 1 November – 31 March Closing time is 7.30 p.m. with the exception of Wednesday where they close at 3.00 p.m.

1 April – 31 October

Closing time is 8.00 p.m. with the exception of Wednesday where they close at 3.00 p.m.

The Minister of Labour has issued a Decree declaring the whole of Cyprus as a tourist area. This Decree has effect from 13 May 2015 until 30 November 2015. All shops can open from 5.00 a.m. and close at 11.00 p.m. with the exception of the district of Nicosia where they close at 10.00 p.m.

1 January – 31 December

Unrestricted for bakeries, Pastry shops, Convenience Stores

Flower shops close at 10.00 PM

Shops selling alcoholic beverages and tobacco products close at midnight

1 November – 31 March Closing time is 7.00 p.m.

1 April – 31 October

Closing time is 7.30 p.m.

1 January – 31 December

Unrestricted for bakeries, Pastry shops, Convenience Stores

Flower shops close at 10.00 PM

Shops selling alcoholic beverages and tobacco products close at midnight

ClosedShops opening hours in the tourist areas are determined by regulations issued by the Council of Ministers. The tourist areas are also determined by the Council of Ministers.

Exceptions:

  1. Unrestricted for bakeries, Pastry shops, Convenience Stores;
  2. Flower shops close at 10.00 PM;
  3. Shops selling alcoholic beverages and tobacco products close at midnight;
  4. Christmas Period 1 December – 31 December working hours 5.00 AM – 8.00 PM
  5. On Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve they close at 6.00 p.m.
  6. Easter Period – 10 days before Easter
  7. Working hours 5.00 AM – 8.00 PM
  8. On Good Friday and Holy Saturday they close at 6.00 PM
CZECH REPUBLIC Unrestricted Unrestricted RestrictedAct on Opening hours in retail and wholesale

(1) Sale in retail or wholesale is prohibited on the following public holidays and other holidays:

  1. 1 January – Date of Restoration of the Independent Czech State and
  2. New Year,
  3. Easter Monday,
  4. 8 May – Victory Day
  5. 28 September –Czech National Day
  6. 28 October – Date of Establishment of the Independent Chechoslovak State
  7. 25, 26 December – 1st and 2nd Christmas Days

(2) Sale in retail and wholesale is prohibited on 24 December – Christmas Eve Day from 12:00 to 24:00

Exemptions:

  1. stores whose sale area does not exceed 200 m2;
  2. filling stations with fuel and lubricants;
  3. pharmacies;
  4. stores at locations with higher concentrations of passengers at airports, railway stations and bus stations;
  5. sale at healthcare facilities, retail and wholesale at times when a state of emergency, crisis situation national state of alert or state of war4) is in effect.
DENMARK Unrestricted Unrestricted Sundays – UnrestrictedPublic Holidays, Constitution day, Christmas Eve the shops are to be closed and New Year’s Eve closed at 15:00.

Exceptions:

  1. Unrestricted for the sale of bread, dairy produce, newspapers, flowers, plants, cars, ships, and fuel – furthermore exceptions for shops selling items for the house e.g. furniture shops and DIY centres.
  2. Unrestricted for stores with turnovers less than 33,1 million Dkr selling DIY products, bakeries, grocers, household articles and garden goods.
FINLAND Unrestricted (from 1.1.2016)Restricted sale of alcohol between 21:00 and 9:00 Unrestricted (from 1.1.2016)Restricted sale of alcohol between 21:00 and 9:00 Unrestricted (from 1.1.2016)Restricted sale of alcohol between 21:00 and 9:00
FRANCE* Unrestricted Unrestricted ClosedThere is a principle of Sunday rest for employees. Shops held by shop owners can therefore be opened, with the exception of a prefect decree of closure to the public)

Exemptions:

  1. Food:

It is possible to start the Sunday rest at 13.00. In this case, for the shops bigger than 400m2, the remuneration is increased at least of 30%

  1. Non-food :

“Mayor’s Sunday”: shops can be opened on Sunday by mayor’s decision within the limit of 12 Sundays/year. In this case, the remuneration is at least the double.

  1. Other possible exemptions for retail trade, food or non- food in touristic international areas, commercial touristic areas and some stations
  2. There are also several sectoral exemptions to the whole day Sunday rest of employees: florists, tobacco shops, DIY, garden centres.
  3. Weekly rest can be given by shift for all staff or part of it.
  4. Voluntary staff can work on Sundays.

It is necessary to sign a collective agreement at branch, group of companies or plant level. The agreement specifies automatically the wage aspects.

GERMANY Hours are regulated by the countries. Where opening hours are restricted, exceptions (similar to those for Sundays and holidays) may be granted UnrestrictedExceptions:

  1. Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony: 06:00- 22:00
  2. Saarland, Bavaria: 06:00-20:00
UnrestrictedExceptions:

  1. Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Northrhein-Westfalia,

00:00- 22:00

  1. Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony

06:00- 22:00

  1. Bavaria, Saarland

06:00-20:00

  1. Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia

00:00-20:00

ClosedExemptions:

  1. Bakery products, flowers, newspapers, dairy products, museums;
  2. Railway and petrol stations, airports, resorts and places of pilgrimage;
  3. In some federal states shops may open when it is in the public interest or in specific circumstances.
GREECE There may be different arrangements for summer and winter seasons, defined as 16 May-30 September and 1 October-15 May 05:00-21:00Exception:

Local authorities may grant extensions

05:00-20:00 Closed Exceptions:

  1. Convenience stores, pastry shops,
  2. photography shops, florists, antiquaries and nut-selling shops
  3. Petrol stations
  4. Local Prefects may allow small shops (under 250 m2), in specific areas, to open
  5. All shops are open on the 2 Sundays before Christmas, on the 1st Sunday of every Sales period (4 in total), and on the Sunday before Easter.
HUNGARY* UnrestrictedException:

Budapest Mayor’s Office can regulate local hours within 06:00-22:00

Unrestricted Common practice to close at 14:00 or 16:00 Sundays – Unrestricted The restrictions were massively unpopular. In 2016, after less than a year following the adoption of a ban on Sunday shopping and in response to persistent public protest, in 2016, the ban was abolished.

National and religious holiday’s – closed.

ICELAND Unrestricted common practice is

9:00-18:00

Unrestrictedcommon practice is to close at 14:00, with some open until 16:00 or 17:00. Sundays: Generally closed, but shops in malls open 10:00-17:00

Public Holidays:

24 December close by16:00 and may not open until 06:00 25 December

ITALYSale of alcohol forbidden from 22.00 to 06.00 in service stations and from 24.00 to 06.00 in proximity shops. Unrestricted Unrestricted Unrestricted
LUXEMBOURG Once a year, every shop owner can obtain the authorisation to keep his shop open during 24 hours 06:00-20:00 Exceptions:

Once a week shops can close at 21:00

Days immediately preceding Public

Holidays 06:00-19:00 (except preceding National Day, Christmas Day, 1 January close 18:00)

06:00-19:00 Exceptions:

Where social partners have agreed an extension until 20:00

Saturdays preceding National Day,

Christmas Day, 1 January close 18:00

06:00-13:00 Exceptions :

The Ministry can decide derogations for specific local areas.

Bakeries, butchers, cake shops, kiosks and souvenir shops

06:00 – 18:00

MALTA Lotto receivers can remain open 24 hours every day, subject to a permit from gaming authorities 8 January to 31 October: 04:00-19:00 1 November to 7 January: 04:00-22:00 Exceptions:

  1. Valletta commercial premises until 22:00
  2. Tourist areas: Beverages, tobacco, fish, jewellery, souvenirs and photographic equipment 06:00 -23:00
  3. Petrol stations 06:00-18:00
  4. Automated pumps unrestricted
  5. Hiring Carnival costumes until 22:00 from Thursday preceding to Tuesday following Carnival.
8 January to 31 October: 04:00-20:00 1 November to 7 January: 04:00–22:00 Exceptions:

  1. Valletta commercial premises until 22:00
  2. Tourist areas: Beverages, tobacco, fish, jewellery, souvenirs and photographic equipment 06:00 -23:00
  3. Petrol stations 06:00-15:00
  4. Automated pumps unrestricted
On 10 January 2017 it was announced that Sunday shopping restrictions have been lifted in Malta. This means that shops can now open during this day of the week at no extra cost provided they remain closed on any other day. According to Maltese law, employers cannot force existing employees to work on Sundays, unless according to contract it is explicitly indicated that they are meant to.
SPAIN*It is regulated by Act 1/2004 on Shop Opening Hours, as amended by the provisions laid down in Royal Decree-

Law 20/2012 on measures to guarantee budgetary stability and promote competitiveness.

Each Autonomous Community shall establish the total number of weekly working hours (Monday to Saturday) on which retail establishments may open to the public, which may in no event be restricted to fewer than 90 hours. The Commerce Bill under Catalan Regulations provides to establish a maximum of 75 hours per week from Monday to Saturday (Judgement 211/2016 has repealed this Bill)

Establishments which shall have complete freedom to decide opening hours are as follows:

  1. Shops under 300 square meters.
  2. Shops engaging primarily in the sale of cakes and pastries, bread, precooked dishes, newspapers, fuel, flowers and plants.
  3. Shops operating in railway stations and on overland, sea and air transport terminals;
  4. Convenience stores;
  5. Shops located in areas with a large tourist population.
Each Autonomous Community shall establish the total number of weekly working hours (Monday to Saturday) on which retail establishments may open to the public, which may in no event be restricted to fewer than 90 hours. The Region of Madrid shall have complete freedom to decide its opening hours.

Establishments which shall have complete freedom to decide opening hours are as follows:

  1. Shops under 300 square meters.
  2. Shops engaging primarily in the sale of cakes and pastries, bread, precooked dishes, newspapers, fuel, flowers and plants.
  3. Shops operating in railway stations and on overland, sea and air transport terminals.
  4. Convenience stores.
  5. Shops located in areas with a large tourist population.
According to State Regulations, the number of Sundays and public holidays on which retail establishments may open to the public is set at sixteen in Autonomous Regions.Sunday and public holidays on which retail establishment may open in each Autonomous Region: Andalucía – 10, Aragón – 11, Baleares – 10, Canarias – 10, Cantabria – 10, Castilla La Mancha – 12, Castilla y León – 10, Cataluña – 8 plus 2 decided by each city hall for its town, C. Valenciana – 10, Extremadura– 8 plus 2 decided by each city hall for its town, Galicia – 10, Murcia – 12, Navarra – 8, Asturias – 10, La Rioja – 10, País Vasco – 8, C. de Madrid – complete freedom.

Establishments which shall have complete freedom to decide opening hours are as follows:

  1. Shops under 300 square meters.
  2. Shops engaging primarily in the sale of cakes and pastries, bread, precooked dishes, newspapers, fuel, flowers and plants.
  3. Shops operating in railway stations and on overland, sea and air transport terminals.
  4. Convenience stores.
  5. Shops located in areas with a large tourist population
SWEDEN*There is no specific regulation of shop opening hours. However, legislation restricts night work between 24:00 and 05:00. Employers and trade unions can come to collective agreements giving flexibility on night work. Usually permission given to gas stations, convenience stores etc.

Deregulated shop opening hours: the Swedish experience

Unrestricted Unrestricted Unrestricted
UNITED KINGDOM*Labour legislation in England and Wales protects the rights of shop-workers to refuse work on Sundays, and to receive overtime payments and time in lieu for working on Public Holidays Unrestricted Unrestricted Unrestricted in ScotlandSundays:

  1. England and Wales – Unrestricted for shops smaller than 280 m². Stores larger than 280m² six hours opening within 10:00-18:00.
  2. Northern Ireland – Unrestricted for shops smaller than
  3. 280m². Stores larger than 280m² five hours opening within 13:00-18:00.

Public holidays:

England and Wales – Unrestricted.

Exception:

  1. Stores larger than 280m² cannot open on Easter Sunday or Christmas Day;
  2. Northern Ireland – Unrestricted. Stores larger than 280m² must be closed on Christmas day and Easter Sunday.
SLOVAKIA* Unrestricted Unrestricted Basic rules: An employer cannot force existing employees to sell goods on listed 16 dates (1 January, 6 January, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, 1 May, 8 May, 5 July, 29 August, 1 September, 15 September, 1 November, 17 November, 24 December after 12.00 hour, 25 December, 26 December). Services can be sold without limit. The regulation is part of the Labor code.

Exemptions:

  1. retail sale at petrol stations, pharmacies, airports, ports, public transport locations, hospitals, sale of transport tickets, souvenir sales.
  2. shop owners can open (if the shop seller is self employed, he can work on these days).
  3. retail sale of flowers has an exemption on 8th of May, 1st of September and November 1st.
IRELAND Unrestricted Restricted sale of alcohol, 10:30-22:30 Unrestricted Restricted sale of alcohol, 10:30-22:30 Unrestricted Restricted sale of alcohol:

  1. Sundays – 12:30-22:30;
  2. Christmas Day or Good Friday – Closed.
POLAND*New regulations entered into force on 1 March 2018 Unrestricted Unrestricted Without 32 exceptions, all retail shops and premises where trade-related activities are carried on to close 0:00 – 24:00 on most Sundays and all public holidays.Exemptions:

  1. Petrol stations, vending machines, bars, taverns and restaurants, post offices, pharmacies, florists, newsagents, premises where cultural, sports or educational activities are carried on (ex. stadiums, schools, theatres), shops located in hotels, public transport stations, and where the owner runs a shop.
  2. Shops and premises are opened on two consecutive Sundays before Christmas, Sunday directly before Easter, and last Sundays in January, April, June and August, on 24 December and on the Saturday before Easter Sunday (Holy Saturday) – until 14:00.

What is more, in 2018 all above-mentioned shops and premises are opened on the first and last Sunday of each month, and in 2019 on the last Sunday of each month. From 2020 there will be no exceptions as to the first or last Sunday of month.

LITHUANIA* Unrestricted Restricted sale of alcohol, 10:00-20:00 Unrestricted Restricted sale of alcohol, 10:00-20:00 UnrestrictedRestricted sale of alcohol on Sundays 10:00 – 15:00Public

Holidays:

Common practise – closed small shops, but bigger shopping centres are opened on Public Holidays.

SLOVENIA* The sale of alcohol drinks is prohibited from 21:00 to 7:00, except in hospitality facilities where the sale of alcohol drinks is allowed until the end of their working hours. The sale of liquor is prohibited in hospitality facilities from the start of the operating hours until 10:00 Unrestricted Unrestricted on SundaysClosed: January 1, February 8, Eastern Sunday, Eastern Monday, May 1, Pentecost Sunday (this year May 20), June 25, August 15, November 1, and December 25
ESTONIA, LATVIA, ROMANIA Unrestricted Unrestricted Unrestricted on Sundays
NETHERLANDS 06:00-22:00 06:00-22:00 ClosedExceptions:

  1. Local authorities can allow Sunday opening.
  2. Good Friday, 24 December and 4 May no opening beyond 19:00
NORWAY Unrestricted Unrestricted ClosedExceptions:

  1. Grocers smaller than 100m²;
  2. Petrol stations smaller than 150m² Camping site shops in-season.

Sources: Euro Commerce (2017 March), information gathered by the Lithuanian Free Market Institute (2018 May)

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