Are your hours built around your customers?

Transient

Too many businesses are home asleep while businesses that stay awake are stealing their customers.

Nearly every thriving (or surviving) retail business today is open 7 days a week and at least some evening hours. Why? Because people are working longer and more varied hours today. Increasingly, the only free time they have for leisure or shopping is evenings and weekends.

What does it matter? Barnes & Noble Bookstores do half their business after 6 pm and on weekends. That means B&N would be a business half the size they are now if they were open only 9-5.

Does this mean your business might double if you stay open more hours – yeah, it means that.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation counsels small towns and local businesses in how to revitalize themselves and compete more effectively against the bigger stores. As the Trust folks do their walk-throughs up and down the streets, they invariably find that nearly all the struggling businesses are open just 9-5.

Knowing that small businesses typically have limited resources and manpower, they suggest not adding more hours, but time shifting from 9am to 5pm to being open 11am to 7pm. They have found that little business is lost in the 9 to 11 morning period, but much is gained in the 5 to 7pm period. This two-hour shift allows far more people to shop or stop in on their way home and creates an opportunity every day for most customers to get there.

And once they try it, shop owners find it has some personal advantages for them as well. They can get their banking, doctors’ appointments, and other things done early and not have to open their stores late or get coverage. They also find they can be home in time for dinner.

It’s time to face the fact that times have changed. “If your store is only open 9-5,” the National Trust experts say, “you are catering to the unemployed.”

Carl Francis

Re-posted from our archives. This blog first appeared in 2007.