Kōrero: Food shops

Whārangi 7. Shopping hours

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Early legislation

Who can sell what and when are questions that have dominated the grocery industry – and with good reason, as the answers to these questions could mean the difference between making a profit and going under.

In summer in the late 1800s shopkeepers and shop staff worked up to 14 hours a day, or until it got dark – whichever came first. Shops were closed on Sundays. Protests about the long hours of work led to the Shops and Shop Assistants Act 1892, which forced shops (except fruiterers and confectioners) to close for one half day in every six-day working week. This was usually observed on a Wednesday or Saturday.

Food stores were typically open 47–52 hours a week in 1900. The Shops and Offices Act 1904 ruled that all shops had to close at 6 p.m. on weekdays, with one late night (until 9 p.m.) each week. This legislation also outlined the types of goods that different types of shops were allowed to sell.

In 1922 legislation was relaxed, allowing shopkeepers greater flexibility in terms of opening hours. Bakers, confectioners, fishmongers, fruiterers and pork butchers were allowed to stay open until 11 p.m. one day a week and 10.30 p.m. on any other working day. ‘Dairy-produce sellers’ and butchers were allowed to stay open until 10 p.m. one day a week and until 6 p.m. on any other day. In the early 1930s grocers were typically open for 48 hours during the week. They would be closed for half a day on Wednesday or Saturday morning, and were open until 9 p.m. on Friday or Saturday.

The 40-hour week

The 40-hour working week was introduced in 1945, and Saturday shopping came to an end. For a time the law was more strictly enforced – but enforcing hours was difficult and a lot of illicit trading occurred. A limited number of grocery shops, mostly those in seaside towns and holiday resorts, were allowed to open outside of the set hours. In 1947, 145 shops in the country had been granted exemptions.

Over the 1950s the range of goods allowed to be sold by dairies and other small food shops (who could be open for longer hours than grocers) was extended. In 1968, 16% of all stores in New Zealand were grocers, 7% were butchers, 6% dairies, 4% fruiterers/greengrocers, 2% fish shops and 2% were bakers.


Saturday trading was reintroduced in 1980 and Sunday trading in 1990. Since 1990 shops could be open 24 hours, seven days a week, if they wanted. However, most shops (except dairies and petrol stations and some others) had to close on:

  • Christmas Day
  • Good Friday
  • Anzac Day, until 1 p.m.

From 2016 territorial authorities decided whether shops in their districts could open on Easter Sunday.

Me pēnei te tohu i te whārangi:

Carl Walrond, 'Food shops - Shopping hours', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/mi/food-shops/page-7 (accessed 19 June 2024)

He kōrero nā Carl Walrond, i tāngia i te 11 Mar 2010, updated 1 Sep 2016