14 December 2017

Where UK Supermarkets Stay Open The Longest, And Why

Supermarkets hold a special significance in the lives of British people. A supermarket is not just the place one goes to find loo roll, travel literature and Linda McCartney pies all in the same place, it’s a lifestyle choice, and one that gets right to the heart of the British psyche. We’re so obsessed, we take a national vote on our favourite each year!
In the UK we have larger supermarket branches, for the weekly pilgrimage, plus local convenience stores. In this study we examine both, to see how supermarket opening hours vary in various regions and cities in the UK. We gathered data from the ten biggest supermarkets - Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Asda, Lidl, Budgens, Iceland, Co-op Food, Morrisons and Aldi – and 6,738 branches in cities across the UK.

Supermarket Opening Hours Per Region

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Greater London has the most weekly opening hours of anywhere in the UK: 105 hours on average. London is then followed closely by Scotland, which has an average of 102 weekly opening hours, and then South-East England (101 hours). Northern Ireland has the lowest opening hours in the UK with an average of 91. All other regions average between 94 and 105 weekly hours.

Cities in Scotland and Northern Ireland have different opening hours to England. The main explanation for this is the Sunday Trading Act, which regulates the opening times of shops across the UK.
The UK Sunday Trading Act was introduced in 1994 to regulate trading on Sunday’s and Bank Holiday weekends. It states that in England and Wales, shops that take up over 280 m2 are only allowed to open for a period of 6 hours, and are required to close on Easter Sunday and Christmas Day (exceptions to this are service stations, as well as airport and railway shops). Smaller shops of up to 280 m2, on the other hand, can open any day and hour.
More constrictively, all stores in Northern Ireland are only allowed to trade between 1 PM and 6 PM on Sundays. This law significantly reduces the weekly average opening hours of Northern Ireland.
The Sunday Trading Act does not apply for Scottish shops, so the weekly average is increased thereby and is nearing that of London.
This law could explain why Greater London has such a high average (105). The city also holds the most smaller local branches than anywhere else in the country.

Supermarket Opening Times Per City

Let’s now take a look at the average total weekly opening times in the largest cities in the UK per population.

Birmingham’s average was calculated from 93 branches, around the same number as Bristol’s, however Bristol’s weekly hours averaged 105 - higher than Birmingham’s 101. This correlates with Birmingham’s lower average GVA (i.e. the value of goods and services that have been produced in the city, minus the cost production and raw materials).
This correlation was also observed with all other cities we studied. In fact, the Gross Value Added per worker and the weekly average opening hours of UK cities have a clear correlation.

Source: Cities Outlook 2016
Birmingham has one of the lowest GVAs, with an average of £45,700 per worker and is also the lowest weekly opening hours. The highest is that of London with £73,400 per worker on average and one of the highest weekly opening hours is also that of London with an average of 105.


Legislation and economics has a big impact on the average weekly opening hours of British’s favourite supermarkets. In Ireland, legislations restrict shops to open on Sundays during specific hours, which thus reduces significantly their total weekly average. In Scottish branches they do not have any restrictions, which explains why their total average matches that of the English capital. The Gross Value Added per worker of one’s British city has a clear correlation with the weekly total opening hours.