Shop Hours

Shops Trading Hours and Other Legal Considerations

The Shops (Hours of Trading) Act, 1938 regulates shop opening times. The legislation is largely inoperative because the requisite orders that may be made under it are not in force or in other cases, orders have been made which restrict the application of the Act.

Working time legislation may effectively determine opening and Sunday opening hours. Licensing law restricts the hours during which intoxicating liquor may be sold.

Planning permission considerations may expressly or impliedly limit the opening hours of retail premises. Nuisance considerations may also arise, in particular where a retail premises is in the vicinity of residential premises.


A Shop

A shop under the legislation is any premises in which a retail trade or business is carried on, excluding so much of it as is not used for such purpose.  It includes premises in which goods are received directly from customers for the purpose of having them cleaned, repaired, altered, laundered, or dyed.

A shop includes a wholesale shop.  A wholesale shop is any premises occupied by a wholesale dealer or merchant where goods are kept for sale or wholesale.  It includes a warehouse occupied for the purposes of a retail trade by a person carrying on such a trade or a wholesale dealer or merchant.

The proprietor is the person who carries on business at the shop.


Public Holidays

The legislation declares certain public holidays for the purpose of the Act.  They include

  • Christmas Day and St. Stephen’s Day or the following days, where it occurs on a Sunday;
  • St. Patrick’s Day or the following Monday;
  • Easter Monday,
  • Whit Monday; and
  • the first Monday in August.

When a day is appointed as a bank holiday it is deemed to be added.  Accordingly, the extra bank holidays introduced in the last 40 years, are also included as public holidays for this purpose.  They are New Year’s Day, the last Monday in October and the first Monday in May.


Variation of Public Holidays

The Minister may vary the legislative effect of public holidays in specified areas in order to cover certain religious holidays including

  • for St. Stephen’s Day,6th January
  • for Easter Monday, Ascension Thursday,
  • for Whit Monday, Corpus Christi or 29th of June, or
  • for the first Monday in August, the 15th day of August.

Such order may be local to specific areas.

Before making an order under the legislation, the Minister is to produce a draft setting out the terms and inviting comment.  The comments are to be taken into account in the making of any order.

Contravention of the legislation is an offence.  Where a body corporate commits the offence with the consent, approval or neglect of a manager, secretary or other officer, that person may be himself liable for the offence.

The Garda Siochana has powers of investigation.  Its members may enter premises for the purpose of the enforcement of the legislation and do such things as are reasonably necessary for such purpose.


Complete Exceptions

The legislation does not apply to

  • any bazaar or sale of work for charitable or other purposes from which no private profit is derived;
  • to any library at which lending books or periodicals is not carried out for gain (other than that of making profits for some philanthropic or charitable object, including a religious or educational object) or for
  • any club or institution which is not itself carried on for purposes of gain.

There are also exceptions for shops for the purpose of serving customers with stores and other necessities required by any naval, military or air force or required for any ship or aircraft after arrival or departure at any port, or aerodrome.


Half Day Opening  I

The proprietor of a shop shall specify in a notice a weekly half-day in each week on which he proposes to close the shop not later than the hour of 1 p.m.  It is to be sent to the Gárda Síochána for the area prior to the first week in which it operates.

The shop owner may change the weekday specified, but shall not do so where the shop is situate in an urban area more often than once in every three months, or in any case unless he gives notice to the Gárda Síochána, at least seven days in advance.  Contravention is an offence.

It is not lawful for a shop owner to keep open a shop for serving customers later than 1 p.m. on the weekday which is the weekly half-holiday for that week.  Where a shop is closed for a whole day on a public holiday and the day is not the weekly half-day for such shop, it is lawful for the shop owner to keep the shop open after 1 p.m. on the weekly half-day immediately preceding or immediately succeeding that public holiday.


Half Day Opening II

The Minister may, by order declare a particular area, being an area frequented as a holiday resort during certain times of the year, exempted for the purpose of the legislation.  He may suspend the period within such season in respect of all shops of a particular type.

The provisions do not apply to a shop in which the only business conducted on the half-day after 1 p.m. on the weekly half-day, while such shop is open, is excepted business.  Contravention is an offence.

There is a defence in relation to a charge in respect of a customer served after 1 p m, if the customer was in the shop before 1 p.m. and is served up to 1.15 p.m.  If the shop is a barbers or hairdressers, and the customer was waiting to be attended before 1 p.m. he may be served / attended to up to 2 p.m.  It is a defence if the person is reasonably believed to be served for the purpose of articles required due to illness.

The legislation applies to places and vehicles from which retail trade is carried out as if that was a shop in the relevant area.


Wide Exemptions from Half Day Provisions

This provision does not render unlawful the attendance of a barber or hairdresser on a customer in the customer’s residence or the holding of an auction of private effects in a dwelling house.

It does not apply to the sale of newspapers.

This part of the legislation does not apply to businesses which are excepted by orders made under it. There is a long list of businesses that are exempted by statutory instruments made shortly after the legislation commenced. They include

  • the business of selling toys
  • the business of selling souvenirs
  • the business of selling homespun tweeds, hand-woven tweeds, hand-woven rugs, hand-woven scarves, art needlework, crochet, or embroidery
  • the business of selling toilet soaps, perfumes, cosmetics, hair brushes, tooth brushes, nail brushes, tooth pastes, hair oils, razor blades or any other toilet requisite
  • the business of selling medicines or medical or surgical appliances
  • the business of selling sugar, tea, coffee, cocoa, dried fruits, jams or marmalades, or salt, pepper, pickles, sauces, olive oil, or other spices or condiments, or flour, oatmeal, rolled oats, rice, tapioca, sago, cornflour, macaroni, semolina,  cornflakes or similar foods of cereal or vegetable origin, or bacon, cheese, butter, margarine, lard, tinned foods, potted foods, bottled foods, eggs, jelly powders, jelly crystals, custard powder, egg powder, baking powder or bread soda or any other articles of grocery
  • the business of selling turf, firewood or fire lighters, or oil-burning lamps or accessories therefor, or lamp oils, candles, night-lights, matches or gas-mantles
  • the business of selling commodities for washing or cleaning, or disinfectants (including insecticides, vermicides and fungicides), sand paper or emery paper.

Numerous statutory instruments were made providing for half days in certain towns and urban districts.


Weekday Hours of Trading Part III

The Minister may make an order declaring that a particular area is subject to an hours of trading order and declare that it is not lawful for the proprietor of a shop in such a trading area to open or keep open the shop on any weekday before a specified hour.

He may declare that it is not lawful for an owner of a particular specified type of shop defined in the order, to keep it open during specified hours.  Different orders may make different provisions in respect of different days and in relation to different periods of the year.

The Minister may, as often as he thinks fit, by order declare the operation of any hours of trading order and any existing closing order shall be suspended or modified in such terms as may be specified. where the hours of trading under an existing closing order relates to two or more classes of shops, and the shop falls into one or more classes, the order does not restrict the class which is not specified.

Whenever an order is in force, then subject to such exemptions as may be contained in it, it is not lawful for a person to carry on in a place, not being a shop, from any vehicle within that area, any retail trade, if such place or vehicle would be subject to the order, if it was a shop.  Contravention is an offence.  There are exemptions in respect of hairdressers barbers and the sale of newspapers.

Businesses may be exempted from Part III of the Act by Ministerial order. Part III does not apply unless an order is in force applying it. Orders were made in respect of certain shop types in various towns in the 1940s and 1950s. There are no modern orders.


Sunday Trading

Part IV of the Act applies to Sunday trading. Subject to the provisions of other legislation, it is not lawful for a shop owner other than the owner of a shop in an exempted area, or in which a scheduled business is carried out, to keep shop open on Sunday for serving customers.  Contravention is an offence.

The provisions apply to any place where a vehicle from which any retail trade or business is carried out as, if it was a shop situated in the relevant area.

The following businesses are excluded fully from the operation of the Act:

  • the sale of intoxicating liquors;
  • the business of selling meals for consumptions on the premises and in the case of meals sold on railway premises for consumption on the train;
  • pharmaceutical businesses,
  • post office business.

Some of them are otherwise regulated.


Exceptions

The legislation does not apply to an excepted business.  Where a business is specified, the excepted business, may be carried on in the shop on Sunday.  The Minister may make area exemption orders declaring that particular area specified or delimited in the order are exempted for the purpose of the legislation.  The area may be defined by the order.  It may refer to all shops or to a particular class of shops.

The order may allow exceptions for emergencies.  Where two or more Sunday trading exemption orders apply to the one shop, the operation of each shall not prejudice the other.

The Minister may make orders declaring businesses to be exempted.  The exemptions may be changed from time to time. The whole of the State is specified as an exempted area for the purpose of Part IV of the Act by 1938 Regulation.

The Minister may make orders declaring a particular area to be trading area for the purpose of the order and declare that it is not lawful for any shop, which is an exempted business, be permitted to trade during the specified hours.  Different provisions may be made for different areas.


Complete Exemptions

The following businesses where excepted from all parts of the Act from the outset.

  • the business of selling refreshments (other than meals) for consumption on the premises and, in the case of refreshments sold on railway premises, for consumption on trains;
  • the business carried on at a railway refreshment room;
  • the business of selling newspapers, periodicals, books, magazines, or stationery;
  • the business of selling tobacco or smokers’ requisites;
  • the business carried on at a railway bookstall on or adjoining a railway platform;
  • the business of selling motor, cycle or aircraft supplies or accessories for immediate use.

References and Sources

Shops (Hours of Trading) Act 1938

It is likely that many of the orders made under this legislation which are still in force are in fact obsolete

 Shops (Form of Half-holiday Notice) (No. 2) Regulations 1938

[Vol. XX p. 487] S.R. & O. No. 187 of 1938

 Shops (Hours of Trading) Act, 1938 (Part IV) (Exempted

Business) Order 1938 [Vol. XX p. 493] S.R. & O. No. 188 of 1938

 Shops (Hours of Trading) Act, 1938 (Part II) (Exempted

Businesses) Order 1938 [Vol. XX p. 497] S.R. & O. No. 264 of

1938

 Boot Repairing Shops (Hours of Trading on Weekdays) (Dublin

City, Dun Laoghaire and Bray) Order 1939 [Vol. XXXIII p. 729]

S.R.& O. No. 19 of 1939

 Shops (Hours of Trading) Act, 1938 (Part II) (Exempted

Businesses) Order 1940 [Vol. XXXIIII p. 747] S.R. & O. No. 304 of

1940

 Shops (Hours of Trading) Act, 1938 (Part III) (Exempted

Business) Order 1940 [Vol. XXXIIII p. 753] S.R. & O. No. 305 of

1940

 Shops (Hours of Trading) Act, 1938 (Part IV) (Exempted

Business) Order 1940 [Vol. XXXIII p. 757] S.R. & O. No. 306 of

1940

 Drapery and Boot Shops (Hours of Trading on Weekdays)

(Wexford Borough) Order 1944 [Vol. XXXIII p. 741] S.R.& O. No.

275 of 1944

 Drapery and Boot Shops (Hours of Trading on Weekdays)

(Westport) Order 1945 [Vol. XXXIII p. 735] S.R.& O. No. 334 of

1945

 Drapery and Boot Shops (Hours of Trading on Weekdays)

(Longford Urban District) Order 1946 [Vol. XXXVIII p. 431] S.R.&

O. No. 147 of 1946

 Barbers’ Shops (Hours of Trading on Weekdays) (Athlone Urban

District) Order 1946 [Vol. XXXVIII p. 421] S.R.& O. No. 295 of

1946

 Hardware, Drapery and Boot Shops (Hours of Trading on Weekdays)

(Drogheda and Dundalk) Act, 1934, Order 1947 [Vol.

XXXVIII p. 435] S.R.& O. No. 245 of 1947

 Shops (Hours of Trading) Act, 1938 (Part III) (Exempted

Business) (Exclusion) Order 1947 [Vol. XXXVIII p. 451] S.R. & O.

No. 363 of 1947

 Shops (Hours of Trading) Act, 1938 (Exempted Business for

Purposes of Part III) Order 1947 [Vol. XXXVIII p. 455] S.R. & O.

No. 365 of 1947

 Drapery, Footwear and Hardware Shops (Hours of Trading on

Weekdays) (Athlone Urban District) Order 1947 [Vol. XXXVIII p.

427] S.R.& O. No. 399 of 1947

 Hairdressing Shops (Hours of Trading on Weekdays) (Urban

3/1938

District of Dundalk) Order 1948, S.I. No. 6 of 1948

 Hairdressing Shops (Hours of Trading on Weekdays) (Borough

of Dun Laoghaire) Order 1948, S.I. No. 7 of 1948

 Hairdressing Shops (Hours of Trading on Weekdays) (County of

Borough of Limerick) Order 1948, S.I. No. 36 of 1948

 Shops (Hours of Trading) Act, 1938 (Part III) (Exempted

Business) Order 1948, S.I. No. 137 of 1948

 Victuallers’ Shops (Hours of Trading on Week-days) (Dublin,

Dub Laoghaire and Bray) Order 1948, S.I. No. 175 of 1948

 Hairdressing Shops (Hours of Trading on Weekdays) (County

Borough of Waterford) Order 1948, S.I. No. 176 of 1948

 General Drapery and Footwear Shops (Hours of Trading on

Weekdays) (Castlerea) Order 1948, S.I. No. 309 of 1948

 Hairdressing Shops (Hours of Trading) (County Borough of Cork)

Order 1948, S.I. No. 338 of 1948

 General Drapery and Footwear Shops (Hours of Trading on

Weekdays) (Castlerea) Order, 1948 (Amendment) Order 1949,

S.I. No. 221 of 1949

 Hairdressing Shops (Hours of Trading on Weekdays) (County of

Borough of Dublin) Order 1949, S.I. No. 240 of 1949

 Shops (Hours of Trading on Weekdays) Order, 1947

(Suspensory) Order 1951, S.I. No. 197 of 1951

 Hairdressing Shops (Sunday Trading) (Dublin City) Order 1953,

S.I. No. 37 of 1953