A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

16 17 20


General Attitude to a Standard Hour

It is not the task of the survey to provide detailed suggestion on how shop closing legislation must be planned. It is however possible to indicate the basic social needs which this legislation should meet. In its simplest terms shop closing legislation can either provide one standard evening closing hour, perhaps with some very special exemptions, or could be of a very complex type with different closing hours for different types of centres or commodities. The question “Do you think all shops should shut at the same time in the evening on week days?” was therefore put to ascertain the general attitude of all shoppers to a standard closing hour.

Table 21 - Opinion on whether all shops should shut at the same time in the evening on week days analysed according to occupation of shoppers

Opinion All Shoppers
Retired and unoccupied
All Distributive workers
All Workers
Yes 61 63 70 72 56
No 25 21 12 24 32
Don’t know 14 16 18 4 12
No answer 0 0 0 0 0
Total Shoppers(100%) 1939 785 155 155 844

In general the people seemed to favour a standard hour at which all shops should in the evenings. 61% of shoppers think alone these lines. Workers have the largest minority (32%) against a standard closing hour. Distributive workers as one would expect have few undecided members and are generally speaking strongly in favour of a standard closing hour.

It is of course very difficult to deduce from this question what are the special shopping needs of those who are against a standard closing hour for shops. They may oppose standardisation because they fear that it automatically means standardisation of an early closing hour or they may be influenced by the need to buy certain specially exempted commodities, from which a standard closing hour debars them. It is probable that it is with the latest shopping requirements, [Text missing] who are the opponents of a standard closing hour . A special age analysis showed that feeling against a standard closing hour is strongest among the younger age groups. As will be seen later these age groups are in favour of exempting many commodities from shop closing legislation. This partly confirms the view that some shoppers are against a standard closing hour because they think it will deprive them of the ‘exempted’ commodities.

When should shops shut in the evenings?

The information set out so far provides a gradual approach to one of the main objects of the survey. This was to indicate what sort of closing hour would suit most shoppers. Shoppers were asked “Till what time would it suit you to be able who buy these goods?”

Table 22 - Time till which it would suit people to be able to shop analysed according to type of commodity

Type of commodity Times till which it would suit people to shop Total using shops selling these goods (100%)
Before 4.45
After 8.15
Any time
Don’t know
No answer
Food 7 8 8 30 8 11 2 2 0 21 2 1 1344
Clothing Drapery 5 7 8 30 10 13 3 2 0 19 2 1 1800
Furniture 5 8 8 30 9 12 2 1 0 23 2 0 663
Ironmongery, tools, household appliances Books 6 8 8 30 9 12 3 2 0 20 2 0 1418
Stationery 5 8 10 30 9 11 3 2 0 19 2 1 1423

In all cases there are no sharp commodity differences to record. The heaviest concentration of preferences is in the 5.46 - 6.15 time group, i.e. around 6 o’clock, with 30% of shoppers suggest as closing time. In view of the fact that earlier tables have shown that 75% of informants are satisfied with existing closing hours, and as information stated that most shops shut by 6 p.m. , it is not surprising that most shoppers would be satisfied with closing hours around 6 p.m. as this table in fact indicates.

It is worth nothing too, that there are thicker grouping of preferences around the hour then around the half hour marks; this can be explained by the fact that informants find it easier to express closing times in terms of hours rather than half hours of any other fraction.

According to this table it is clear that a closing hour of 6 p.m. would satisfy 70/75% of the population, whereas the balance might well be inconvenienced. A closing hour of 7 p.m. would probably satisfy 90/95% of the population. These estimates are arrived at by including the column of those not specifying any particular closing time with the satisfied groups. In view of the high degree of support that a 7 p.m. closing hour would command, the case for it specifically is examined later.

Before doing this, however, further information on factors influencing shoppers' preferences for closing hours may be examined. It is a reasonable assumption that informants' preference for closing hour are affected by the extent to which existing closing hours satisfied them. Where existing closing hours are satisfactory it is unlikely that informants will express a preference for a later hour, when however, existing closing hours are not to a shopper's liking then preferences for a later closing hour are likely. This hypothesis is tested in table 23 where only one commodity, clothes, which concerns the widest sample of shoppers, is investigated.

Table 23 - Convenience of existing closing hour analysed according to time till which it would suit people to be able to buy goods. (Clothing and Drapery only).

Convenience of closing hours Suggested closing time
Before 4.45% -4.46-5.50% 5.16-5.45% 5.46-6.15% 6.16-6.45% 6.46-7.15% 7.16-7.45% 7.46-8.15% 8.15 and after Any time% Don’t know No answer
Convenient 94 95 94 84 49 38 15 93
Inconvenient 3 2 4 14 46 57 80 2
Don’t know 0 1 1 1 4 2 0 3
No answer 3 2 1 1 1 3 5 2
Total shoppers(100%) 92 129 143 542 182 230 60 29 3 350 30 10

The table confirms that informants' preferences for closing hours are associated with their views on the convenience or inconvenience of existing closing hours. It suggests that informants who prefer late closing are in fact prompted by genuine needs and are not urging late closing merely in order to permit a very occasional late purchase. Thus the strongest feeling against existing closing hours can be found in those groups who want shops to remain open after 6.15 p.pm. Opposition to existing closing hours is as high as 80% in the group which wants closing time between 7.16 -7.45

The Case for a 7 p.m. closing time

It has already been suggested that 90/95% of shoppers in various commodities would be satisfied with a closing hour around 7 p.m. but that only about 70/75% would like a closing hour around 6.15p.m.It is important therefore to ascertain who are the shoppers that require a closing hour after 6.15 and what sort of shopping commitments they have. In short are they a sufficiently important group to justify later closing? In table 24 all commodities have been grouped together, and any shopper expressing at least one preference for a closing hour after 6.15 p.m. is included among the late shoppers.

Table 24 - Closing time preferred analysed according to occupation of shopper

Closing time All Shopper
% No.(100%)
Retired and unoccupied
All distributive workers
All other workers
After 6.15 p.m 30 589 29 2 7 62
Any other time 69 1329 46 11 8 35
Personal shoppers not recording a preference 1 21
Total sample (100%) 1939 41 8 8 43

Table 25 - Closing time preferred analysed according to type of shopper

Closing time All Shopper
Type of Shopper
Mainly responsible for household shopping
Helps with household shopping
Personal shopping
After 6.15p.m 589 41 22 37
Any other time 1329 52 18 30
Personal shoppers not recording a preference 21
Total sample 1939 49 19 32

The outstanding features is that workers, including those in the distributive trades, make up as much up as 69% of those wanting closing after 6.15 p.m., against only 43% workers among those wanting earlier closing. Although [Text missing] those of housewives, the shopping commitments of that group are not small. As many as 41% of the “late shoppers” are persons mainly responsible for their household shopping; this figure must include a large number of working women. In view of the large number of workers among those needing later closing, some further investigation is needed. Why is it that some workers would be satisfied with a closing hour before 6.15 p.m., while others need later closing?

Are workers attitudes to different closing times influenced by the time they finish work? This possibility is investigated in table 26 below.

Table 26 - Workers' attitudes to closing times analysed according to time of finishing work

Times of finishing work Closing time after 6.15
All other times
4.45 p.m. or earlier 12 14
4.46 p.m. - 5.15 20 17
5.16 - 5.45 34 27
5.46 - 6.15 21 20
6.16 - 6.45 6 4
6.46 - 7.15 2 5
7.16 - 7.45 1 2
7.46 - 8.15 0 1
After 8.15 4 10
Total working shoppers (100%) 412 557

The times at which the two groups of shoppers finish work is not substantially different, and therefore there is no evidence to prove that those wanting late shopping include a high proportion of those finishing work late. That being so, a more convincing answer must be found to the question why certain workers require late closing. For this purpose a very detailed occupation breakdown was undertaken.

Table 27 - Attitude to late closing analysed according to occupation of shopper

Occupation All shoppers (100%) Closing time preferred Question not put
Closing after 6.15
Any other times
Housewife 785 22 78 0
Agriculture 69 29 65 6
Factory 244 59 38 3
Building transport public utility 158 46 54 0
Clerical 83 45 55 0
Distributive 110 28 71 1
Miscellaneous 186 31 67 2
Shop keepers & shop managers 30 27 73 0
Professional managerial 65 21 79 0
Retired and unoccupied 155 8 90 2
Clerical workers in distributive trade 15 27 73 0
Miner 39 46 54 0
Total shoppers 1939 30 69 1

The occupations with the strongest feeling for late closing include Factories 59%, Building, transport and public utility 46%, Clerical workers 45% and Miners 46%. All these occupations, except perhaps the clerical group, are precluded by the nature and often location of their work from doing much shopping during the day. Other occupation groups find it less difficult to squeeze in some shopping time during the day. This is particularly the case with professional and managerial workers and members of the distribution Industry.

Finally a study of “ late shoppers” would be incomplete without assessing the importance of working women in that group.

Table 28 - Comparison of attitudes to evening closing of working men and working women

Closing time preferred Working Men
Working women
Closing after 6.15 21 80
Any other time 79 20
Total shoppers (100%) 668 332

As many as 80% of all workers favour at least one closing time after 6.15 p.m. This is a particularly striking result when it is remembered that a substantial proportion of women workers are in the distributive industry and would be expected to look less favourably on later closing. The fact that 45% of Clerical Workers want a closing time after 6.15 p.m. is doubtless influenced by the large number of women in that industry. The attitude of the big majority of women workers to late shopping is a factor that must be taken into account in any plans for maintaining or increasing the existing force of women workers in employment.

The evidence suggests that a closing hour of 7 p.m. would satisfy the vast majority of the public, including an important section of the working population who would be seriously inconvenienced with a closing hour of around 6 p.m.


About 60% of shoppers favoured a standard closing hour for all shops in the evenings on week days. Strongest opposition to a standard evening closing hour was found among the youngest age group and among all workers not in the distributive trade. Of these groups 33% opposed standard evening closing. Peak preferences for an evening closing hour were around 6 p.m., but it was noticed that a closing hour around 7 p.m. would satisfy about 95% of shoppers as against 75% who were satisfied by 6 p.m. closing. A special analysis was carried out to find out who were the shoppers who would not be satisfied with 6 p.m. closing. The late shoppers' group accounted for a large proportion of the population of Factory workers, Miners, Builders and Clerical workers. As many as 80% of women workers wanted a closing hour after 6.15. Thus late shopping is a matter of some concern to women workers and may well be a factor affecting their attitude to employment.

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