Dublin is the financial and commercial center, the distribution point for most imported goods, and the port through which most of the country's agricultural products are shipped to Britain and the Continent. Cork, the second-largest manufacturing city and close to the transatlantic port of Cobh, is also important, as is Limerick, with its proximity to Shannon International Airport. Other important local marketing centers are Galway, Drogheda, Dundalk, Sligo, and Waterford.
The trend in retail establishments is changing from small shops owned and operated by individuals to larger department stores, outlets, and chain stores operated by management companies. As of 2002, there were about 52,000 retail and 2,500 wholesale outlets across the country. There were about 9,000 retail food outlets. A 21% value added tax applies to most goods and services.
Office business hours are usually 9 or 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM . Shops are generally open from 9 AM to 6 PM , although most supermarkets are open until 9 PM on Thursday and Friday. In general, banking hours are 10 AM to 12:30 PM and 1:30 to 4 PM , Monday through Friday, and 3 to 5 PM on Thursday. Most offices are closed on Saturday, and shops close on either Wednesday or Saturday afternoon. Businesses may close for extended periods during the months of July and August.