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In respect of England and Wales, prior to the coming into force of the Christmas Day (Trading Act) 2004, there was no legislation to prohibit Christmas Day opening other than the restrictions affecting large stores under the Sunday Trading Act 1994 (‘STA 1974’). Under the STA 1974, large shops were required to remain closed on Christmas Day but only when the 25 December fell on a Sunday. Trading was allowed when Christmas Day fell on any other day of the week, although convention had dictated that large shops remain closed.

The Christmas Day (Trading) Act 2004 was a response to a growing trend for large shops to open on Christmas Day in 2002 and 2003. A campaign by USDAW (the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) argued that large shops should be prohibited by law from opening on Christmas Day on whatever day of the week it falls. USDAW was concerned that many of its members were already working longer hours over the Christmas period, often for no extra money. The Christmas Day (Trading) Bill, a Private Members’ Bill with Government support, was introduced in the House of Commons on 7 January 2004 by Kevan Jones MP. The Act came into force on 9 December 2004.

The Christmas Day (Trading) Act 2004 is a straightforward Act. It prohibits large shops and supermarkets in England and Wales from opening on Christmas Day whatever day of the week it falls. For the purposes of the Act, a ‘large shop’ is defined as being larger than 280 sq. m/3,000 sq. ft. in size. Smaller shops (less than 280 sq. m/3,000 sq. ft.) are unaffected by the Act. In effect, a small shop could open twenty-four hours a day, every day of the year, including Christmas Day, if the owner so wished.

This short Commons briefing paper provides information on the main provisions of the Christmas Day (Trading) Act 2004 and a summary of the background to the Act. It also outlines the position in Scotland under the Christmas Day and New Year’s Day Trading (Scotland) Act 2007.

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