The return of Saturday shopping
In the 1970s, perhaps because more New Zealanders travelled and experienced life overseas, there was growing dissatisfaction among many over the weekend restrictions. Retailers increasingly found loopholes in the laws or simply risked being fined for trading on Saturdays. The Shop Employees Union campaigned against Saturday trading, arguing that shop employees would lose their weekends. The National government passed the Shop Trading Hours Amendment Act 1980, allowing Saturday trading. An increasing number of shops began to open on Saturdays and the nature of the weekend changed again. Saturday trading also meant the end of Friday late-night shopping, although Friday nights remained a time for people to eat, drink and socialise in town after work.
Logic and loopholes
During the years Sunday trading was restricted there were many inconsistencies and loopholes: ‘On a Saturday you could buy toothpaste, but not shampoo. Sugar could be bought in one-pound bags, while sale of a three-pound bag was illegal. And yet it was perfectly legal to buy three one-pound bags. You were allowed to buy chocolates, milk, bread, eggs and butter and petrol, but it was illegal for someone to sell you a goldfish. For attempting as much, in 1974, Wayne Plank’s Tropical Fish Shop was fined $50 thirty times.’1
The weekend opens up
Saturdays in many towns became major shopping days, but generally at a more leisurely pace than during the week. Having a weekend brunch at one of the growing number of cafés became a feature of weekends for many people. Saturday was still the main day for sports activities, although sports events began to be held on Sundays and Friday nights. While many people continued to play and watch sport, it no longer had the central role in communities it had in the past, when few other entertainment options were available. More people took up non-team sports such as windsurfing, mountain biking, tramping and walking.
Saturday markets took off in some parts of the country. The Ōtara market in South Auckland, which had started in 1978 as a charity fundraising venture, became a major institution. The Saturday morning market in Nelson, initiated in 1988, evolved into one of the central events in the local weekly calendar. Markets not only served a commercial function, but were places where people met and socialised.
People continued to go out to entertainment events on Saturday nights, with a much wider range of options available to those in the larger centres. Youth behaviour on Friday and Saturday nights continued to raise concerns, with perennial worries about binge drinking and ‘boy racers’.
Sunday opening – the end of the sabbath?
In 1989 Sunday trading became legal, spelling the end of the sabbatarian Sunday. By this time many pubs were also open on Sundays, although legally they could only serve patrons who were dining. In 1999 the restrictions on Sunday opening for licensed premises were removed. Shops, pubs, art galleries and museums were now open on Sundays, but the day still tended to be more relaxed than Saturdays or weekdays. For many people Sunday continued to be a day for family activities.