Open all hours

This month, Jade Burke asks the ToyShop UK listing whether changing opening hours from the normal nine to five is a viable alternative for independents.
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Popping down to the High Street to visit the local store to pick up amenities is a luxury some consumers do not have nowadays. 

More and more, people are finding it difficult to visit their High Street within the constraints of traditional opening hours. It can be no surprise then, that consumers are seeking out online retailers and supermarkets that are open all hours.

It begs the question, would it not be more beneficial for toy shops to open either earlier or later in order to cater to today's consumer, those who are unable to squeeze it all in between nine and five?

The appetite is most certainly there, as supermarkets continue to roll out and increase their toy offerings, while platforms such as Amazon or eBay see peaks in online activity during the out-of-work hours. It seems remiss of the toy retailer to ignore it. 

“We are open late every night except on Wednesdays and we also run in-store gaming events in the evenings,” Duncan Conner, owner of the Bus Stop Toy Shop, tells ToyNews. 

“Whereas it's often not worth the bother of being open on week day mornings. Evenings are an essential part of our business.” 

The concept of nine to five opening hours is a flawed one. And while anyone who has spent time working within retail can attest to the peaks and troughs of the average day, perhaps shifting time patterns can help ensure retailers are optimising their efforts during hours of heightened High Street activity? 

“I run my business on my own and I've been opening on Sundays, but seven days a week was getting quite enough for me. If I could afford the staff and the utility bills, I would be open from 8am to 9pm,” states Darths Hutt’s owner, Mitch Brown. 

However, Mimi Gorman, owner of The Cheshire Cat, disagrees. 

“I think it would make no difference to anything other than retail operating costs,” she laments. 

The additional costs of opening at different hours has also proved to be a bugbear for many retailers, for example opening later may mean more staff costs, while utility bills for electricity and gas could increase, which could undo the plans for any profit-making by store owners. 

David Grounsell from Dave's Classic Toys, concurs: “Costs of opening out of hours far outway the fact that some people think we are there for their convenience. If customers are really interested in what you sell they will find time to get to the shop.”

“Instead of opening all hours for diminishing return after a normal trading day, we should focus on providing a cracking 24/7 online service to support our shop's normal opening hours.”

The beauty of being an independent means owners can offer bespoke services, from local delivery options to click and collect, which will help to cater for those consumers who are unable to shop in-store.

Alongside this, offering a complete 24-hour service online also helps to ensure independent stores are accommodating every consumer. 

Wendy Hamilton, of Helensburgh’s Grasshopper Toys, agrees: “Instead of opening all hours for diminishing return after a normal trading day, we should focus on providing a cracking 24/7 online service to support our shop's normal hours.”

Jollys Toys' owner, Charlotte Croser, also believes this to be true. “An essential offering we have is our online service and in-store collection which local customers use regularly,” continues Croser. 

High Street competition is unavoidable, as grocers infiltrate the scene and onlines continue to crop up. Today's indies need to be heard, whether that's via a thorough online presence or altering opening hours. 

“Customers are the life blood of any business, we have to adapt to the lifestyles they have now,” concludes Julian Shelford, owner of the Final Frontier.

“Instead of opening all hours for diminishing return after a normal trading day, we should focus on providing a cracking 24/7 online service to support our shop's normal opening hours.”


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