In the communist period, marketing and distribution, including price-fixing, were controlled by the federal government; administration on the lower levels was handled by the national committees. Cooperative farms sold the bulk of their produce to the state at fixed prices, but marginal quantities of surplus items were sold directly to consumers through so-called free farmers' markets. Starting in 1958, the government operated a program of installment buying for certain durable consumer goods, with state savings banks granting special credits.
The "Velvet Revolution" of 1989 brought rapid privatization program on an innovative voucher system. Each citizen was given an opportunity to purchase a book of vouchers to be used in exchange for shares in state-owned businesses. As a result, more than 20,000 shops, restaurants, and workshops in both the Czech and Slovak republics were transferred to private owners by public auction in a wave of "small" privatization, and through distribution of ownership shares. Under communism, nearly 97% of businesses were state-owned. Today, about 80% of the economy is wholly or partially in private hands.
Today, the commercial center of the country is Prague. Though there are numerous small shops throughout the city, American and European style supermarkets and department stores are developing and providing stiff competition. Shopping malls have also begun to develop. Though most transactions are still in cash, credit cards are gaining a wider acceptance within major cities. Direct marketing, particularly through catalog sales, has become more popular, particularly in areas outside of the major cities.
Businesses generally adhere to a standard 40-hour per week, though many may close early on Fridays. Most businesses do not keep weekend hours.