A licence is not required to operate most types of shops and retail businesses. The sale of some types of goods may require a licence or may require compliance with certain standards or requirements.

A local authority licence is usually required in order to sell goods in a public place or to operate as a street trader.  It is necessary to register with the local authority in order to display business objects on a pavement.

In London, there are rules and restrictions on promotional flyers and posters on the street and on the solicitation of business in a public place.

A shop larger down 280 square metres may only open for six hours on Sundays and must shut on Christmas Day.

General consumer protection rules apply to the sale of goods. Failure to comply can lead to liability to compensate customers. Other consumer protection rules are enforced through prosecutions and penalties by the Office of Fair Trading or by local authority trading standards officers. See our separate guide on consumer protection rules.

Regulation of Specific Goods

The sale of some types of goods is prohibited entirely. Many goods may only be sold if they comply with minimum health and safety standards.

There are restrictions on the sale of knives, razor blades and other such articles to persons under age. There are restrictions on the sale of cigarettes. Cigarettes may not be sold to persons under age.

There are obligations on retailers of certain types of goods to ensure that only properly marked and compliant goods are sold. For example, sellers of electrical equipment must ensure that properly goods are marked compliant with appropriate standards.

Another example is the requirement of fire resistance that applies to the sale of nightwear and domestic furniture and furnishing. A further example is an obligation on toy sellers to ensure that the requisite safety and compliance markings and contain warnings,  addresses and certain other details.

Licences for Certain Retail Businesses

A business selling shotguns, firearms and munitions must be registered with the police.

Precious jewellery must be hallmarked by one of the UK assay offices. .A business selling or renting TV receiving equipment, video recorders and computer broadcasts must register with TV Licensing Authority. All videos and DVDs and games for sale or hire must have a classification.

A retail pharmacy premises must be registered. Poisons and many medicines may not be sold other than by a retail pharmacist or licensed seller. See our separate note on the sale of medicines.

There are registration and compliance obligations for food sellers. The modern legislation takes a more sophisticated to food safety at every stage in the supply chain. See our separate note on food manufacturing and retail sale.

A petrol filling station requires a licence from the local authority. The licence will be subject to conditions to obligations to carry out control measures. Petroleum licences are required in London. A petroleum licence is required for dispensing fuel and for places where large amounts of petroleum are stored.

If more than 25 tonnes of dangerous substances are stored, petrol stations and fuel retailers must register with the Health and Safety Executive/fire authority and must display certain warnings.

A licence is required to keep dangerous wild animals. Dog breeders and sellers must comply with welfare standards. Protected animals and wild birds and plants may not be traded without a licence. It is not permitted to trade in endangered animals or plants without a permit or certificates.

Copyright Permission

Is necessary to obtain a licence from the Phonographic Performance Ltd when sound recordings are played in public. A performance rights society licence is required in respect of pre-recorded music.


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