Opening for Business

On holiday in Devon and Cornwall recently I was delighted to find a great selection of independent shops but I was astounded by their limited opening hours. In Kingsbridge, Salcombe and Dartmouth most shops closed at 5.00pm, in Falmouth they closed at 5.30. Most opened at 9.00 in the morning and many closed for lunch. I find this amazing at the height of the holiday season.

We hear a lot about how our independent shops are struggling to make a living and how our High Streets are in decline. On this basis I’m not surprised. The peak holiday period is short, giving businesses around six weeks in which to capitalise on the tourist market. In most of the places we’ve been to on the continent many of the independent shops stay open until 8.00 or 9.00 o’clock or later in the holiday season to take advantage of the additional footfall.

Agatha Christie's holiday home, Greenway, a big draw for visitors.

Think about it. Many holiday makers relish the break from the tyranny of the alarm clock, they start the day with a lazy breakfast before they are drawn to the beach or some other attraction. Maybe they spend the day messing about on boats or visiting some historic property. A high proportion of holiday makers will be Townies used to late night shopping. They will not plan their day around shopping before 5.00pm so when they can’t find an independent store open late they will be forced to buy from the big boys who incidentally were open long, often 24 hours.

Messing about in boats

I spent 20 years working in retail. I know it’s demanding. However one of the keys to making money is being open for business. We all need to think about when our customers will want to use our services and make sure we are open then. At The Training Pack we will open evenings and weekends when our customers have time to think about their businesses. Sometimes we’ll take time off in the week to compensate.

When do your customers want to use your services? Should you be changing your trading hours even for a limited period? Should you be offering a late night or early morning? I think many of the traders in Devon and Cornwall should be extending their opening hours for the six weeks of the school holidays to encourage holidaymakers to spend their money. What do you think?

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