On 15 December 2014, the Hungarian Parliament voted for the Sunday closure of shops as of 15 March 2015. This closure will apply to grocery, clothing, DIY, furniture, and electronics shops, as well as all other kinds of specialised retail stores. However, Hungarian consumers will still be able to shop on Sundays in pharmacies, at airports and railway stations, petrol stations and hospitals. Tourism service providers and shops in hotels also appear to be exempt for the impending closure rules. In addition, shops located in sports stadiums may also open during games held on Sundays.
The prescribed closure will apply not only on Sundays, but also to all other days of the week for the period between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
As always, a number of exceptions have also been adopted for the new law. Retail shops with a sales area below 200 sqm will not fall under the closure requirements, provided that the sales personnel consists of the owner holding at least 20% interest in the shop and his or her family members.
Shopping malls may also keep open, but the individual retail shops therein must individually comply with the closure rules. Accordingly, their permitted opening hours will depend primarily on the size of their sales area and their ownership structure.
Certain flower shops, newspaper stands and bakeries may also open Sundays, but only in the morning. Bakeries enjoy another exception: they may also open one hour earlier on weekdays, ie already at 5:00 a.m.
Furthermore, the Government has reserved its right to allow for further necessary exceptions by adopting individual Government Decrees that will set forth such exceptions.
Shops in breach of the new closure rules will be fined and may be ordered to remain closed for three to seven days. Upon committing a fourth breach, a shop may be ordered to close for a year.
It is interesting to note that Hungary’s two largest trade unions have also argued against the new law. However, the three largest domestic-based retail chains have supported the new law, and it is widely known that the international retails chains active in the country are expected to suffer from it. This reflects the fact that the Hungarian chains generally operate in a franchise-like system and many of their stores are rather small.
According to statistics, 11% of the retail turnover in Hungary is realised on Sundays. In terms of shop size and types, the biggest chunk (14%) of the sales turnover is made in hypermarkets, while 73% of the turnover in foodstuffs is realised in shops with sales areas larger than 200 sqm.
As the bill was voted on only on 15 December 2014, the summary provided above is based on initial news reports. The exact text of the newly adopted law and all the details will probably be available only during the course of the week of 22 December 2014.