A recent poll of our neighboring businesses revealed that only half of us are back to our pre-pandemic hours.  Our shop is one of several still closed at least one day a week, and we aren’t open any evenings yet.  Prior to COVID, we were open every day, and four to five evenings until 8:00.

In truth, most of those evening shifts were very slow.  We sometimes held Cooking School classes, which helped justify the extra hours, but most days we saw few customers after 6:00.  Our rationale was that we felt we needed to offer convenient hours in order to effectively compete with big box stores and malls.

One thing that the pandemic has made abundantly clear is that these are not our real competitors.  Amazon, and to a lesser extent other online retailers, are what is eroding our market share.  And Amazon is open 24/7, which just isn’t practical for a brick and mortar independent retailer to try to emulate.

We have increased our own online presence enormously over the past year, so customers can now at least browse our selection whenever they want. But we are not trying to compete with Amazon by offering free shipping, so most people shopping online with us eventually come into the store to make their purchase. They can also place an order for curbside pickup, which we offer seven days a week.  But that part of our business – which really saved us during COVID – has really dropped off. 

It is undeniable that the more hours you are open, the more convenient it is for customers to drop by to shop.  I’ve personally been frustrated by stores being closed on Mondays, even though I realize that sometimes that’s the only day that the owner gets to take off.  I hope that we’ll add Monday back into our schedule soon.

But evenings are another matter. Unless we’re open every evening, there will still be times when customers find us closed.  And choosing which evenings to be open is no easy matter.  When we first went into business, there was a uniform Monday/Thursday evening shopping tradition on our street, but that is long gone.  We may decide to just be open evenings for special events such as the new monthly First Friday on Monroe Street.

Not being open longer hours may help with the work/life balance that is important to both store owners and their employees. But it also means fewer opportunities for those with a regular Monday-Friday gig to work in a retail store in their free time.  These are all factors we are juggling as we try to determine what the new normal will be for our shop.  You may have other considerations influencing your decision, such as wanting to attract evening crowds from nearby restaurants.  Sending out a customer survey in an email blast, and setting up a way to compare notes with other retailers in your area, are helpful steps towards finding out what the best hours are for your store. 

Once you have determined your hours, don’t forget to make sure they are up-to-date on your website, front door signage, Google, Yelp, Facebook, Instagram – anywhere else a customer might look.

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder