Sundays are precious, so if you want to get the best from them, it’s good to plan your shopping trips and other activities carefully. If you want to do something on the spur of the moment on a Sunday, this website has all the information you need to see what’s available in your area so you can make the most of your time. But why are opening hours for some businesses different on a Sunday and others seem to be open as usual?
The 1994 Sunday Trading Act
Years ago, few shops or businesses were open on Sunday, but since the advent of the Sunday Trading Act in 1994 the number of places open on Sundays has increased significantly. It’s now possible to do almost anything on Sunday that you can do on other days of the week. There are regulations around what can and can’t be done, and the hours that businesses are allowed operate.
The Sunday Trading Act states that shops larger that 280 square metres (3,000 square feet), can only open for six consecutive hours on a Sunday, between 10:00 am and 6:00 pm in England and Wales. This rule doesn’t apply to shops in Scotland or Northern Ireland, where the rules are different. Naturally, this means that shops and businesses opening hours are limited on Sundays, with many shops opting for opening hours between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.
These shops often allow so-called ‘browsing’ time when customers can go into the store to look and collect goods, although they can’t be paid for until the store officially opens. Some categories of business are exempt from this ruling, so they can choose their own Sunday opening hours if they want to trade, regardless of the size of the store. And smaller businesses are also exempt so they can set their their own opening hours.
Which businesses can operate on Sundays?
There are many kinds of businesses which are open on Sunday.
Retailers open on Sunday
Large supermarkets are generally open on Sundays between the hours of 10:00 am and 4:00 pm, although this may vary slightly between individual shops. Even shops that have 24-hour trading during the week will have restricted hours on Sundays, but they may have additional browsing time. All the main supermarkets are open on Sunday, but you may find smaller branches, such as Tesco Express or Sainsbury’s Local, have longer opening hours.
Large retail stores
It’s not only large supermarkets which are open on Sunday. There are many other stores which also operate Sunday trading, including furniture retailers, large electrical stores, clothing shops, and many more. Some shops may be open on Easter Sunday.
Many independent shops, such as small fashion boutiques, gift shops or toy stores, have no restrictions on their Sunday opening hours. In practice, many tend to follow a similar pattern to the larger operators. This may be because there will be less footfall in the area when larger stores are closed, or because the staffing costs involved in staying open on Sunday for longer are too high. The exception maybe areas which are solely made up of small shops, such as seaside towns, where shops are sometimes open later on Sundays to attract tourists.
Farm shops and other outlets that sell their own food products (e.g. fishmongers), are not subject to trading restrictions and can choose their own hours to open on Sunday.
Shops in airports are allowed to trade the hours they choose on Sunday, as they are exempt from Sunday trading restrictions.
Pawn shops open on Sunday allow for people to pawn valuable items for cash on the same day.
Motor services open on Sunday
Petrol filling stations
Petrol filling stations are not restricted in their opening hours, so many are open on Sunday beyond the usual trading times. Most filling stations now have an on-site shop which can be open at any hour on Sundays.
Motorways service stations
Motorway service stations are allowed to be open on Sunday for 24 hours, which includes the petrol stations and any additional services like food outlets and shops.
Other motor services
Other motor services also operate on Sundays, including some MOT centres, car repair shops, mobile mechanics and vehicle recovery specialists. Opening times vary, so it’s best to check with individual operators, Tyre garages are also open on Sunday.
Health and medical services open on Sunday
Naturally, emergency medical services such as Accident and Emergency departments are open all hours. However, some other medical services are open on Sunday, but generally with limited access.
Walk-in medical centres
Opening hours for walk-in medical centres that are open on Sunday vary. Centres located in the community, such as a shopping centre, tend to have the same opening hours as shops. However, those located in a hospital adjacent to A&E departments may be open for longer. Private walk-in centres are more likely to have longer opening hours on Sundays than NHS centres.
NHS GP services are rarely available on Sunday, and although out-of-hours care is always provided for emergencies, this is usually in the form of a home visit. Private GP services can sometimes be accessed, either by booking an individual appointment or attending a GP practice that is open on Sunday.
Again, regular dental care is not generally available on the NHS on Sundays, although it may be possible to book private appointments. However, emergency dental treatment is available through local NHS Emergency Dental Centres or at the local A&E department.
Pharmacies are not bound by the Sunday trading regulations, and can open on Sunday without limiting their hours. Many neighbouring pharmacies operate a rota system on Sundays, ensuring at least one pharmacy is open for dispensing prescriptions, selling over-the-counter medication and other services.
Finding a vet open on Sunday is vital for all pet owners, due to their pets life maybe being on the line. Vets will be able to offer relief to pets that are in bad physical health.
Extra services open on Sunday
Finding someone to deal with your website problems or to design a website on a Sunday can be very tricky. However, there are some here.
Naturally, transport services run on Sundays, although sometimes with a reduced or amended timetable. Transport hubs such as stations, bus terminals and coach stations are allowed to open for as long as they wish, so customer service centres may be also open on Sunday, although generally with shorter hours than on weekdays.
Local Markets and Exhibitions
Unlike retail stores, Sunday markets and exhibitions can be open on Sunday, regardless of size, and this includes the sale of good and services at exhibitions as well.
Naturally, many people like to enjoy leisure activities on a Sunday, and many attractions and facilities are open on Sunday, although some have shorter hours.
Leisure centres and gyms
Leisure centres with facilities such as swimming pools, sports areas and gyms, are able to open on Sunday for as long as they wish. Many open early and close late to give maximum flexibility for their users.
Theme parks and similar attractions
Sunday is often an extremely good day for theme parks and other attractions such as open farms, zoos, adventure activities etc. and these are not restricted in their opening hours. In practice, many have variable opening hours on Sunday, with longer hours during high season.
Sunday is also a popular day for eating out and businesses that serve food and drink are able to open on Sunday as usual, although the usual licensing restrictions still apply unless an extended license has been granted. This includes pubs, restaurants, bars and cafes, fast-food outlets and coffee shops.
Post Office open on Sunday
Some post offices are open on a Sunday within the UK. A post office open on Sunday can offer lots of services other than just post. You can find out what a post office open on Sunday can offer you here.
Finding an emergency plumber at a last minute appointment could be very crucial in the winter if your radiator or you get a burst pipe.