Committee Reports::Interim Report and Final Report - Shop Hours (Drapery Trades, Dublin and Districts) (Amendment) Bill, 1925::16 December, 1925::Appendix



1. The Shop Hours (Amendment) Bill under consideration by the Special Committee proposes to amend the Shop Hours (Drapery Trades, Dublin and Districts) Act, 1925 (referred to herein as “the Act of 1925”) and the Shops Act, 1912 (referred to herein as “the Act of 1912”) in the following respects:—

(a) For the Closing Hour on Saturday Night, i.e., 7.30 o’clock, provided by the Act of 1925 it provides a 9 o’clock Closing Hour;

(b) It withdraws the exemption conceded by the Act of 1925 to small shops where no assistants are employed.

(c) It deprives traders of the right to observe the compulsory Half-Holiday on Saturday, which, having regard to the provisions of Sub-Section 2 (1) of Section 4 of the Act of 1912 (still unrepealed) is a rather dubious proposal; and

(d) It compels the closing of shops earlier than 7 o’clock on certain evenings in the week without repealing Sub-Section 2 of Section 5 of the Act of 1912.

How far one Act may, by implication, repeal a previous Act with which it is being construed as one, I am not competent to say.

2. With the proposal to fix the Closing Hour on week evenings earlier than 7 o’clock the Shop Assistants’ Organisation fully agrees. The proviso limiting the discretion of the Traders and the power of the Local Authority was inserted in the Act of 1912 to meet certain fears alleged to exist amongst London Costers and in certain sea-side resorts. We suggest, however, that as practically every trader affected now closes at 6 o’clock on four week evenings there is not sufficient ground for making the Closing Hour 6.30 o’clock on Thursday and Friday evenings. This is, however, a small point, and if the case for retaining 6.30 on Friday evening is pressed we would raise no objection. We believe the traders as a whole are agreeable to close at 6 o’clock on Tuesday evening, and that not more than 3 per cent. would avail of the additional half-hour on Friday.

3. No case has been made for the proposal to prevent Traders observing their half-holiday on Saturday. Before a weekly Half-holiday was made obligatory in May, 1912, the larger Firms in Dublin closed down at 2 o’clock on Saturday. After the Act of 1912 became Law the hour was altered to 1 o’clock. Their example was followed by the better type of small trader and by other trades, businesses and offices. Customers and the public have become accustomed to the Saturday half-holiday, and there has grown up a whole system of Saturday afternoon recreation that exists only because the vast majority of city workers are free on Saturday from 1 o’clock. So far as we know every trader and every worker affected is opposed to the proposal, and would regard its enactment as an unwarrantable interference with the freedom of choice that has produced a very satisfactory arrangement so far as the week-end rest goes. This clause affects traders of all descriptions, Shop Assistants, Clerks, Tailors, Porters, Packers, Motor-Drivers, Dressmakers, Factory Workers, etc., numbering many thousands. They are all opposed to it, and the public will be equally opposed to it the moment they recognise its effects on the life of the City.

4. Those whom I am entitled to represent agree with the proposal to withdraw the special exemption given to Traders by Section 6 of the Act of 1925. The distinction in their favour was at variance with the previous enactments in this connection. It puts them into a privileged position. In almost every European Country and in the British Dominions the appeal for favoured Legislation in the interest of men running a business without hired labour has been resisted. In Australia, a concession has been made where a widow with a family under 18 years of age runs the business as her only means of support and does not employ labour. In Dublin most of the people coming within the terms of the exemption do not depend solely on the business of the Shop. Many of those Shops are carried on by the Wife or Family of men holding well-paid posts in the City.

5. For the proposal to repeal Section 3 of the Act of 1925 (which compels the Closing of Shops at 7.30 o’clock on Saturday night) there is not, we submit, the smallest particle of justification. This proposal, if enacted, may have far-reaching consequences both for those who favour as for those who oppose it. In order to see the proposal in its correct perspective it is essential to understand that, in the main, the Trades to which the Act of 1925 refers are not identical with other Trades which are usually carried on extensively at night. The public may buy at night tobacco, cigarettes, bread, tea, sugar, drink, sweets, fruit as intelligently as at mid-day. No sane man buys a suit of clothes at 8 or 9 o’clock on Saturday night. If a woman buys her millinery on Saturday night (a rather unusual thing to do) she comes back on Monday morning to exchange it for something else. In short, Saturday night sales consist almost entirely of hosiery, collars, thread, aprons, etc., all of which could have been bought the previous day or could wait over till Monday. A poulterer or egg-dealer could, probably, argue that his goods will not “keep” over the week-end. So could a fruiterer. A Draper cannot advance that argument in favour of late shopping.

6. Late shopping is largely a habit. When in 1901 the Select Committee of the House of Lords took evidence from every party interested, and found amongst traders, shop assistants, social workers, housewives, rank-and-file workmen, etc., absolute unanimity in favour of a proposal to limit the shopping hours very considerably, one or two witnesses did give evidence against any limitation whatever. The reasons given by the very few people then opposed to State action of any kind are the reasons advanced now—25 years later—for repealing the Section of the Act of 1925 that compels the Closing of Shops at 7.30 o’clock on Saturday night. They are the reasons advanced by all objectors to ameliorative Legislation, whether it is a factory Act, a Truck Act, a Trade Board Act, an Insurance Act, an Education Act, or a Shops Act.

7. It has been stated the Closing of Drapers’ Shops at 7.30 on Saturday night is opposed to public interest. There is not any evidence of which we are aware that the public suffered any inconvenience. It has been pleaded that working-class shoppers would suffer hardship if the shops are not open late on Saturday night. The several Trade Union Organisations in Dublin may be said to know what is or is not in the working class interest. The opinion of the Trade Unions is on record and is known. As long ago as 1894 the Dublin Trades Council declared in favour of early closing being made compulsory by legislation. The Trade Union Congress in 1897 affirmed that resolution. From that date down to the present the various working class organisations in Dublin have supported the efforts to bring about uniform shorter hours in shops of every description. In July last, the Dublin Workers’ Council representing 58,000 workers, unanimously approved of the Bill then before An Dáil, and the Women Workers’ Union passed resolutions and published their opinion that working class women did not desire to have late hours for doing their shopping on Saturday. It is my experience that men and women of leisure are more frequently in the shops on Saturday night than are working class men and women.

8. It is said on more than one occasion by advocates of late shopping that because working people went to a football match on Saturday afternoon there was no time to do the week-end shopping before 7.30 o’clock. In the first place, we think the Legislature would not be justified in keeping young girls working in a shop for 12 or 13 hours to enable football enthusiasts enjoy an evening’s sport. If conditions of shop life are intelligently organised with some regard to humane considerations this need not happen. When the Act of 1912 was first introduced it was thought it would produce this organisation. The Minister responsible for its introduction said:—“It was the lack of organisation that had prevented any effective reform, and had led to the work of a great body of people being stupidly and aimlessly spread and sprawled over the week.” Further, granted the average man attends the football match after the mid-day meal (although not more than one in twenty does it) he can be home quite comfortably at 5 o’clock. He has thus 2½ hours to attend to his shopping. Week-end shopping, however, is not done to any great extent in the drapery shops. It is groceries and provisions that are usually bought on Saturday evening.

9. It has been suggested that the section of traders demanding late shopping on Saturday night do so because they have been doing 25 per cent. of their total turnover after 6 o’clock. I am not prepared to accept that figure. I am quite satisfied it is incorrect. However, there is no doubt many of them do a substantial volume of business on Saturday afternoon, but only a small fraction of it after 7 o’clock. This is one evidence of bad organisation. By remaining open late on Saturday night certain types of shops encourage customers to postpone the visit to the draper until the football match, the picture show, and the publichouse have had their demands satisfied. Frequently, to satisfy these demands, the money intended for the draper has found another outlet. The draper has a troublesome customer to meet, and expends twice the time on the sale it should normally occupy, and to cope with the last-minute rush he must keep a staff of assistants that are uneconomic and pay for light that would be unnecessary if the business was properly organised.

10. I remember the last-minute rush to the Post Office at 10 o’clock at night. Gradually, the hours for public business were shortened, and now we all get our Post Office business transacted before 7 o’clock. The large drapery shops (and the many small ones, too) that close at 1 o’clock on Saturday do not lose customers because they are not open all night. If all the drapers in Dublin closed down at 1 o’clock on Saturday afternoon the public would forthwith accustom themselves to the altered conditions, business now transacted at the last moment on Saturday night would be spread more evenly over the week, a big lighting bill would be cut out, and the traders could do the same or an increasing amount of business with fewer employees. The public would get better value, and generally everybody gained.

11. We are opposed to the suggestion that legislation should favour small traders merely because they are small traders. It is urged by the advocates of the Amending Bill that they require facilities for trading after the normal closing hour, and that unless they have such facilities they will be unable to make a living. That position is both untenable and unreasonable. If the law is to hold the balance evenly it must place all traders in a specific business on terms of equality. To act otherwise is to act unjustly. If the contention that a number of small traders can only exist because they have opportunities of trading when the majority of their competitors are closed can be sustained, they will be driven out of business if the majority decide to remain open during the full legal hours. In any event if they can only get a living out of their business by resorting to a system of “poaching”—it amounts to that—it rather suggests there is no room for them, and that they should never have been in business.

12. Viewed from the point of view both of the public and of those engaged in the trade, the existing position is chaotic. A number of the shops close down on Saturday at 1 o’clock. The number includes all the very large houses and a substantial number of small houses employing five to ten workers. A number, again, close at 6.30 o’clock. These are the small traders (with a few exceptions) who employ from seven to seventy assistants. A third group close at 7.30 o’clock. The fourth group close at any time between 7.30 and 9.30 o’clock. The fifth group comprises the quite small type of shop, very frequently a mixed shop, worked by members of the employer’s family, which remains open until ten o’clock or later. The shops in the second, third and fourth groups, i.e., those closing at 6.30, 7.30, or before 9.30, are all of the same class, they are employing assistants, carry much the same class of goods, meet the same customers, and are situated in the same localities—often standing side by side in the same street. There are only a small number agitating for an extension of the working hours, and it appears to us unreasonable that legislation would be enacted to put them in a position of advantage as compared with the remainder of the traders of the same class.

13. Firms now closing at 6.30 and at 7.30 on Saturday, while protesting their opposition to an extension of these hours, have repeatedly made representations to us that they cannot remain closed if other houses are open and serving their customers. It was the introduction of the Act of 1925 in June last that prevented the matter coming to an issue. The firms intimated they would as from a given date consider themselves released from their agreement in the matter and would remain open as late as the firms that had already broken away from the terms of the agreement. The members of the Union decided they would not work longer than the existing hours. If the issue was forced it is evident, we think, that an upheaval both sides were anxious to avoid would become inevitable. We are aware that if the proposal to extend the hours until 9 o’clock is adopted and becomes law, it is the intention of all the traders to remain open until 9 o’clock. While we sympathise with their point of view, I firmly believe that assistants will not voluntarily accept the change and that a dispute is inevitable.

14. If, as is suggested by the trade as a whole, the firms now closing earlier than 7.30 revert to a 9 o’clock closing hour, the extension from the existing legal hour of 7.30 will confer no advantage on those who are asking for it. On the contrary, it will result in serious disadvantage. As the matter stands they have a full hour’s business after the neighbouring shops have closed down. If the neighbouring shops remain open as long as they are open that advantage disappears. There is only a limited volume of business on Saturday night. If the totality of the business is spread over 400 shops, it will amount to very little for each. The present position diverts all of it into the very much smaller number of shops open after 6.30 o’clock.

15. The claim that the Legislature should afford special trading facilities to a section of small traders in the drapery business has no parallel in other trades, businesses or occupations. The Licensing Laws make no such distinction. Even the special facilities hitherto given members of clubs have been withdrawn on the ground that they were unfairly competing with the publican. A builder who employs three workmen conforms to the trade customs in regard to hours, etc., observed by the big contractor employing one hundred workers. Small banks are subject to the same restrictive or business customs enjoined on the big corporation. In the matter of Workmen’s Compensation, Health Insurance, Truck, Factory Laws, etc., even including the provisions of the Shops Act, 1912, uniform conditions are imposed regardless of the importance of the undertaking. In the professions the same thing applies.

16. A substantial number, practically all, the promoters of the Shop Hours (Amendment) Bill are recent openings. Taking advantage of the early closing agreements that from 1918 were improving progressively the conditions of labour in drapery shops, a certain number of people entered business for the first time with the object of doing a certain amount of business after the other firms had closed down. In 1920 every trader in the city who employed labour in his business was closing down at 7.30 or earlier on Saturday evening. A number of new firms opened up in quick succession. Each new firm opening kept his shop open later than his predecessor. Until recently, however, there was not at any time a demand for a 9 o’clock closing hour. 8 o’clock was generally the hour previously arrived at, and very few regarded even 8.30 o’clock as desirable.

17. Previous to the agitation aroused by a small group of traders those firms that desired to remain open until 8 o’clock were prepared to offer concessions to their assistants where they agreed to extend their hours. For instance, the proposal was: if the assistants extended their hours from 6.30 until 8 o’clock, the employers were willing and did, in fact, agree to pay for their tea, to give an additional week’s annual leave on full pay, and to give the assistant a full day’s leave on every alternate Wednesday. The proposal in the Bill, therefore, is a serious and a reactionary step that commends itself to only a very small minority of the traders of the city.

18. We suggest that to retain the existing closing hour and by strengthening the Act and extending its scope to ensure that all traders handling drapery, hosiery, haberdashery, fancy goods, boots, tailoring, house furnishing, etc., would best promote the interests of the business for all parties. At the moment the greater part of the money spent in Dublin on Saturday night finds its way into auction rooms, bazaars, and the premises of foreigners, who contribute practically nothing to the welfare of the city. If there is late shopping in outfitting shops, firms like Burtons, Hipps, etc., will gain the major share of it. In small wares, such as are usually sold in ladies’ outfitting departments, firms like Woolworths, the bazaars (Marks, for instance), and the auction rooms, do the biggest business. The auction rooms alone, although they pay no rates to the city, or tax to the State, and are merely fleecing the public, take up to £60,000 or £70,000 a year at the afternoon and night sales. If the present Act is strengthened and enforced, it will divert this money into the shops.

19. In circular letters issued by the promoters of this Bill, and in statements made in An Dáil, it has been said repeatedly that there never was an agreement fixing the closing hour at 7.30 o’clock on Saturday night. I will, if desired, hand in copy of a resolution adopted by the traders concerned in May, 1920, and handed to my Association on same date, in which the traders undertook to close their shops not later than 7.30. I will also submit a list of names of traders who were present and approved the resolution. It will be found that amongst these names there are a number who have stated repeatedly since July last than an undertaking of the kind referred to was never given. Other agreements with traders entering into business since May, 1920, are in my possession and can be produced. They are to a like effect.

20. In a statement issued in June last, a day or two after General Mulcahy in An Dáil introduced the Shop Hours Bill (now the Act of 1925), the small traders opposing it stated (inter alia):—

“We represent over 400 small shopkeepers, and employ 50 per cent. of the total number of assistants engaged in the trades affected, and as a body pay more taxes than the houses supporting the Bill.”

I will be in a position to show from figures carefully tabulated the statement quoted is incorrect in every detail.

21. With the permission of the Committee I will hand in tabulated statements showing the houses and firms in the city and townships engaged in the trade of draper, hosier, outfitter, hatter, glover, boot and shoe dealer and house furnisher; the totals in each case; the number of employees engaged in each house and the totals; the taxable value of the property and the (approximate) taxation. The statement will show further that the small traders who circularised Deputies in June last do not represent 400 traders, that they do not employ half the assistants in these trades, and that they do not pay 50 per cent. of the taxation, nor own 20 per cent. of the capital.

22. It will also be observed from the tables to be submitted that a large proportion of the traders who did, in fact, give assent to the statement opposing the Act of 1925 are occupiers of premises where no assistants are employed, and are therefore not interested in, and are not supporting the Bill now before the Committee. Others are tailors, pawn-brokers, and shoemakers, who may or may not come within the scope of the Act. Only a small proportion of those promoting the Bill can be said to be representative traders, and in the main they are people who previously closed down at 6.30 or 7.30 on Saturday, and are in a rather substantial way of business, and doing a trade equal to and, in some cases, exceeding that of firms now closing at 6.30 or earlier.

23. In the statement issued by the group purporting to represent the small traders it was alleged that the passing of the Act of 1925 would put many of them out of business and would lead to the disemployment of a number of assistants—estimated by one Deputy at 800. The Act came into force on July 15th. In the interval ten firms that were not affected by the Act, and were either closing at 1 o’clock or remaining open until 9 o’clock or later, have given up business or become insolvent. Not one firm which was closed at 7.30 because of the operations of the Act either failed or retired from business. Assistants have not been disemployed. We have fewer members unemployed now than we had a year ago, and in evidence of their faith in early closing almost 3,000 assistants affected have signed a memorial in opposition to the Amending Bill.

24. I desire to draw attention to the fact that where shops close at 7.30 it does not follow that assistants are then finished the day’s work. The Act of 1912 contemplates that where shops close at 1 o’clock the assistants will be free at 1.30. As a general rule, assistants are detained in the small shops between a half hour and an hour after closing time on Saturday. This does not happen in the larger houses, where more experienced assistants are employed, and where there is better business organisation.

25. Wage conditions are particularly bad in the late shopping houses. These firms pay a much lower wage rate than is customary in the larger houses. A hand-bill distributed at one house in the city recently—a copy of which can be made available—will indicate the kind of conditions imposed on young girls by firms agitating for late closing on Saturday night. Further, so far as the small traders are concerned, nearly all shop’s legislation, whether relating to seats for females, meal hours, heating, sanitation, etc., is entirely ignored.



(Handed in by Mr. L. J. Duffy, 13th January, 1926.)

1. I desire to refer to the précis of evidence delivered on January 5th. In paragraph 20 and 21 I drew attention to the claim made by the traders promoting the Bill that they

“represent over 400 small shopkeepers, and employ 50 per cent. of the total number of assistants engaged in the trades affected, and as a body pay more taxes than the houses supporting the Bill.” (This referred to the Bill which is now the Act of 1925.)

I stated the claim was an exaggerated one, and was wholly inaccurate in every specific detail. The actual figures, which have been carefully tabulated, will indicate the insignificance of the demand for the Bill now before the Committee.

2. (a) In regard to the first part of the claim—that the Small Traders Organisation represents over 400 shopkeepers. Subsequent to the publication of this statement its authors circulated, in June last, a list of traders whom, it was alleged, were their supporters.

(b) I have examined the list carefully. After removing from it certain repetitions and duplications it does, in fact, contain 199 names. In this total of 199 there are included, however, the names of 27 persons who are not properly included, i.e., the names of persons included without authority or of persons who are not occupiers of shops within the meaning of the Act of 1925. The correct total of the list is therefore, 172—not over 400 as alleged.

(c) Of this total of 172, a number—21 in all—in 1920 or subsequently entered into an agreement to close their premises on Saturday evening at 7.30 o’clock or earlier. They did, in fact, conform to the terms of the agreement for a considerable time.

(d) 24 others, although occupiers of shops, have other employment which may be regarded as their principal employment. Ordinarily the business of the shop is carried on by either members of their families or by shop assistants or both.

(e) Practically all the remaining 127 are occupiers who have opened business recently and employ few if any assistants, or are owners of shops which are directly connected with some other business or are pawnbroking establishments.

(f) There are in the city of Dublin and the surrounding townships 1,021 shops engaged in one or more of the trades or businesses enumerated in the Bill.

3. In the second part of their claim the group of small traders demanding this Bill allege they “employ 50 per cent. of the assistants engaged in the trades affected.”

(a) The 172 individual firms named in their published list employ between them 353 persons, including juveniles, whether paid a wage or not. The total persons employed by the trade as a whole is 6,709. Therefore, only 5.2 per cent of all the persons “engaged in the trades affected” are employed by the firms claimed as supporters of this Bill.

(b) These figures dispose, finally I hope, of the assertion that unless this Bill becomes law 800 assistants will be dismissed by the small traders.

(c) If the wage-load is examined the analysis will show how un-important the small traders are as employers. It may be said with absolute certainty they do not pay more than 3 per cent of the wages earned in the trades affected.

4. In the third part of their statement, as quoted above, the small traders allege that “as a body” they pay more than half the taxes borne by the traders affected.

(a) If they refer to Income Tax, Excess Profits Duty, and other State taxes, I am unable to challenge their statements. If, however, as seems more likely, they refer to local taxation, rates, etc., levied on their property by the local authority, their claim will not bear examination.

(b) The total rateable value of all the premises engaged in the trades or businesses enumerated in the Bill ls £99,944. The rateable value of the premises occupied by the 172 traders quoted in support of the Bill is £7,491. The small traders with whom we are concerned do, therefore, merely pay 7.5 per cent. of the total local taxation borne by the trades affected.

5. Finally, the relative importance of the small shops quoted as supporters of this Bill is shown by the following figures:—


Of the total premises affected they occupy



Of the total persons engaged they employ



Of the taxation borne by the trade they pay



Of the total wages paid they bear less than


It must be remembered that not more than a mere fraction of the 172 traders quoted are anxious for late shopping on Saturday night. Practically all prefer that a closing hour not later than 7.30 would be fixed by law and enforced.

Another matter that, in my opinion, should be taken into consideration is the amount of capital employed by the trades as a whole and by the group supporting the Bill. As is generally known many in the group of 172 employ little capital. In some cases it would not exceed £30. Taken together, it is doubtful if the aggregate capital invested by the 172 traders would equal the capital invested in one of the large firms like Messrs. Clery and Co.