The number of shops found to be trading illegally over the Easter weekend appears to be similar to last year, the Department of Labour says.

The Department will consider the prosecution of 38 retailers after 19 were caught trading on Good Friday and another 19 on Easter Sunday.

"We still have to assess the information the inspectors come back with," Labour department communications adviser Colin Patterson said.

"They have to check what was for sale against the list of exemptions in the Act before we decide whether or not to prosecute.

"It's possible, for example, that somebody may be warned or other action taken."

The figures are similar to those in 2009, when 17 retailers were caught opening on Good Friday and 16 on Easter Sunday.

The issue of Easter trading hours remained a contentious issue this year, with business owners calling for more clarity on the laws.

Auckland business advocate Cameron Brewer, who was lobbying this year for changes to the law, said "confusion reigned high" as some towns were banned from trading while others were not.

Licensed premises, cafes, gardening and hardware stores were also a problem, he said.

"Cafes can open if they have ready-to-eat food, but what is ready-to-eat food? More and more hardware stores, most of which have big gardening departments, are opening and facing $1000 fines, even though gardening shops can legally open on Easter Sunday.

"This weekend there has been more confusion and frustration than ever before around Easter trading laws. It can't go on any longer."

- NZPA