Every festive season SMEs are faced with the same dilemma: do you shut shop for the Christmas period and face losing custom to give your staff a well-needed break? Or do you stay open as long as possible to maximise potential sales?

UK Christmas Trading Law

Christmas trading hours have long been a contentious subject and up until 2004 there was no legislation in place to prohibit opening on Christmas Day, unless December 25th fell on a Sunday. Of course, many shops still decided to close on this important day, but they didn’t have to.

After a campaign by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) over concerns for members working longer than average hours in high-stress atmospheres, the Christmas Day Trading Bill was given government support and the act was passed by the House of Commons in December 2004.

The law now dictates that any shops over 280 square metres or 3,000 square feet (categorised as a ‘large shop’) must close on Christmas Day, whatever day of the week it falls on, with no exemptions. Shops smaller than this size are exempt from the rules and opening is at the owner’s discretion.

The closure of large shops on Christmas Day is monitored and enforced by the local authority who may appoint inspectors to fine those that do not comply.

All other festive days fall under regular trading law, such so that on Sundays, stores can only open for 6 consecutive hours between 10am and 6pm, regardless of whether it is New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day or Boxing Day.

Will You Work Over Christmas?

As an SME it is unlikely that the Christmas Day Trading Act 2004 will affect you, so will you decide to open your office, shop or factory over the festive period? Here are a few things you may consider when making your decision:

What Do Your Customers Want? – If you are an experienced trader, think back to previous years – did you make a profit last year? If not, it may be more cost effective to shut your doors for a few days.

If you are a start-up and don’t have the records to consult, why not poll your customers? Ask their opinion when making a purchase, send out emails or ask on your social media accounts. The customer is always right after all.

Talk to Your Staff – In most cases, your staff will probably want the time off to spend with their family. However, there may be a few who would rather work and earn a little extra cash. Sit down with your staff and ask them. No one wants to be forced to do something they don’t want to do and grumpy staff could be bad for business.

Confer with Business Controllers – If your business is in a shared building, retail park or industrial estate, speak to the other businesses around you and ask what they will be doing. You may find that the building or park gates get locked on certain days which will prevent you from trading anyway.

Cover All Bases with Out of Hours – Have you considered allowing staff to work from home over the Christmas period? Or why not provide your biggest clients with your personal mobile number so they can get in contact with you should there be an emergency? You could even have a member of staff on call. Just because the business premises may shut over the festive season, it doesn’t necessarily mean your company has to stop trading.


Here at Pure Commercial Finance, we’ve decided to shut the offices over the Christmas period. Please take note that we will be closing the office at 5pm on Wednesday 23rd December 2015 and we’ll be reopening at 9am on Monday 4th January 2016. Need to chat to us before then? Give us a call on 02920 766 565or request a call back.