SAYit Blog
Should shops be allowed to open at Easter?

There have been frequent calls over the years for all shops to be allowed to open on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, so we thought we'd see what New Zealanders thought of that idea. We've also polled on the other two days most shops have to close (Christmas Day and ANZAC Day), and for good measure asked New Zealanders what they thought of shops being allowed to open on Easter Monday.  Results are from a UMR SAYit poll of n=1000 New Zealanders, conducted in December 2013, and the specific question was:

  • As you may be aware most New Zealand shops by law are not allowed to open on certain public holidays.  Do you think all shops should be allowed to open on the following days?

The poll shows solid opposition to shops opening on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

  • 62% oppose allowing all shops to open on Good Friday, while 36% support it and 2% are unsure.
  • 58% oppose allowing all shops to open on Easter Sunday, while 39% are in favour and 3% are unsure.

I suspect that the difference between the two days is down to the margin of error rather than a genuine underlying trend, so I wouldn't place too much emphasis on that.  What is interesting though are the demographic differences, with the trends for Good Friday being basically the same as those for Easter Sunday.

  • 42% of men support allowing all shops to open on Good Friday, compared with 32% of women.
  • 49% of under 30s support shops opening on Good Friday, compared with 29% of over 60s.  30-44 year olds (36% support) and 45-59 year olds (33% support) are in the middle.
  • 48% of Wellingtonians favour opening on Good Friday, compared with 34% of Aucklanders and 33% of Cantabrians.
  • 41% of Green voters, 38% of Labour voters and 34% of National voters support all shops opening on Good Friday.

It's worth reminding readers at this point that what we're measuring here is attitudes to ALL shops opening - just because most people oppose allowing ALL shops to open on Good Friday, it's not reasonable to assume that most people are opposed to ANY shops being open.  

We also asked people how they felt about shops opening on Easter Monday - a day when they are of course allowed to open - and it's surprising how divided New Zealanders actually are:

  • 50% of New Zealanders believe that all shops should be allowed to open on Easter Monday, while 48% oppose this idea and 2% are undecided.
  • Wellingtonians (60%) are again more likely to support this idea than either Aucklanders (46%) or Cantabrians (50%).

The survey results strongly suggest, however, that many New Zealanders see both Christmas and ANZAC Day as more important public holidays than Easter.

  • Just 16% of us think that all shops should be allowed to open on Christmas Day, while 83% are opposed and 1% unsure.  28% of under 30s think all shops should be allowed to open on Christmas Day.
  • 23% of us think that all shops should be allowed to open on the morning of ANZAC Day (they currently must be closed until 12pm).  75% oppose the idea while 2% are unsure. Here the age difference is smaller, with 32% of under 30s wanting all shops open compared with 23% of over 60s.

Now, you could certainly argue that the solid opposition to ANZAC morning shopping reflects the fact that it's only part of the day and therefore a relatively minor inconvenience.  This poll on ANZAC Day and Waitangi Day, however, suggests to me that it's actually a reflection of the emphasis many New Zealanders now place on ANZAC Day - an emphasis that certainly seems to have grown rapidly over the last twenty years or so.  I've pointed out the declining proportion of New Zealanders describing themselves as Christian before (data available here), and would go as far as to say that these poll numbers may suggest that ANZAC Day now means more to many people than Easter.  Whereas for many New Zealanders Easter is a chance for a bit of a holiday and to eat lots of chocolate, ANZAC Day has become an important part of our national identity.

A Christian reading this might ask, "if the survey numbers suggest ANZAC Day is more important to many New Zealanders than Easter, then don't they also suggest Christmas is even more important?", and I'd have to agree with them.  I've seen other poll numbers, however, that suggest that much of value people place on Christmas is actually about the opportunity to spend time with family and friends, rather than the religious festival. I'm not trying to diminish religion here, just pointing out that there are probably other factors at work.

I suggest, however, that the reason many people are opposed to the idea of all shops being able to open on the three and a half days they're not allowed to open on now isn't just about the meaning of those days.  It's about people seeing value in having at least a few days a year when most shops aren't open, and the focus is on family and community life. Does that sound like a reasonable interpretation?