The marketing system is partly free and partly controlled. Salt, tobacco, alcoholic beverages, and certain commodities are produced and distributed by the government. Prices of basic living commodities are controlled. Retail sales in cities are handled by small department stores, specialty shops, general stores, convenience stores, roadside stands, and peddlers. In 2000, Taiwan had over 1,000 supermarkets and 3,200 convenience stores. Since roadside stands and peddlers have little overhead and are satisfied with a small profit, their prices are generally lower than those of the large stores and shops, if the customer bargains. In recent years, wholesale discounters, hypermarkets and franchises have become significant distribution channels for consumer goods, increasing the efficiency of the marketing system overall. The nation's first shopping malls opened in 1999 and 2001, with development plans to build 20 to 30 more within the next few years.
Chilung and T'aipei are the distribution centers for the northern end of the island, while Kaohsiung and T'ainan are the principal distribution centers for the southern area. Most registered import and export trading firms are located in T'aipei. Accounts are usually settled during festival periods, according to Chinese custom.
Local markets open about 7 AM and close at 6 PM or later. Business firms and stores are usually open from 9 AM to 5:30 PM , and in the morning on Saturdays, and some stores close as late as 10 PM . Most stores are open seven days a week. Banks are open six days a week: Monday–Friday, 9 AM to 3:30 PM , and Saturday, 9 AM to noon. As of January 1998, government employees (excepting the police, health bureau, and customs) and most private companies take the second and fourth Saturday of the month off.