Most retail stores are small and unspecialized. Marketing and distribution are dominated by the strong and well-developed cooperative movement, which the government assists with loans, price guarantees, and supervision. Although government monopolies played a major role in the wholesale distribution of imported goods, as well as many domestic commodities during the 1970s and 1980s, liberalization policies since the late 1980s decreased direct state involvement in domestic trade. The government still controls much of the food sector as a matter of national security.
Colombo is the nation's commercial center with a large business section adjoining the traditional bazaar, a large area of small retail shops and stalls. Kandy is a market center for locally produced tea, rubber, rice, cacao, and handicrafts. Galle is an agricultural market center and Negombo is a major market center for fishing and handicrafts. Jaffna hosts a number of local markets for fishing, agriculture, and industries including textiles, tobacco processing, and chemical and cement production. The city also serves as a trading place for elephants, peppers, and other commodities. There are several advertising firms in Colombo, some of which have connections abroad. Products are advertised in newspapers, trade journals, motion picture theaters, and on commercial radio.
The usual business hours are from 8:30 AM to 1 PM and 2 to 5 PM , Monday through Friday. Banks open from 9 AM to 1 PM on Monday and to 1:30 PM , Tuesday through Friday.