Some businesses reduce their opening hours on weekdays and close their doors on Sundays for several reasons, including lack of staff. Should the debate about store opening hours be reopened?
Do you need to buy a box of screws from the hardware store or bring a pair of shoes to the shoemaker for repairs? Check the opening hours before you go, because you’re more likely than before to bump your nose on a closed door.
Staff shortages, the popularity of online shopping and telecommuting, which is emptying urban centers, are forcing traders to adjust. “Some shops open later and close earlier. Others choose not to open on Sundays and Mondays. Merchants have adapted to traffic that changes with the time of day,” says Claude Reinville, CEO of the Société de développement de l’avenue du Mont-Royal, which includes about 500 businesses and service companies.
Some businesses have been hit harder than others, especially restaurants and shops offering specialized services. More than half of hardware stores had to cut opening hours in 2022, according to the Quebec Association of Hardware and Building Materials Manufacturers. “If a wood specialist is on vacation because he only works 35 hours a week, a client waiting for advice may have to come back another day,” says association president Richard Darvo.
Business reinvents itself
The Quebec Retail Council recently surveyed about 5,000 of its members about the reasons why they are reducing hours. In question for most of them, according to its CEO Damien Siles: lack of staff, low customer traffic on the floors (with remote work, consumers are changing their shopping habits), the need for employees in more stable hours. and better wages. The province will lack 25,000 employees to meet the needs of this sector of activity.
Reduction of hours
So the table is set to revive the old debate about store opening hours. Under the Business Admissions Hours and Days Act, which was amended in 1992 to allow commercial establishments to be open on Sundays, normal opening hours for the public are from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday and from 8:00 to 9:00. weekday evenings, except for certain businesses such as grocery stores and pharmacies, which have extended hours.
Those hours are no longer relevant in the current climate, according to Richard Darvo, who advocates cutting shop hours and closing them on Sundays “to give merchants and under pressure workers a little respite,” especially in smaller hardware stores that represent 75 % of establishments. By cutting hours, smaller stores are losing customers and revenues to larger ones, exacerbating their problem.
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Close shops on Sunday?
He believes closing stores on Sundays and standardizing opening hours will put all stores on an equal footing. The quality of customer service will also improve, “because employees will be fresher and more ready to respond.”
The Quebec Retail Council also advocates for a “better fit” with store opening hours. However, its members are not in favor of closing on Sundays. “They would prefer scheduling according to location and type of trade,” says Damien Siles.
Should merchants be allowed to agree among themselves on common hours of operation? Such an agreement would be illegal under section 45 of the Competition Law. Only a ministerial decree or a change in law will change the status quo.
Last June, the Quebec government proposed that municipalities should be responsible for determining opening hours for shops located on their territory. This decision provoked outrage from trade associations, and the corresponding bill remained a dead letter.
At the same time, special solutions, such as the avenue du Mont-Royal walkway during the summer, make opening a business more flexible and earn points in terms of traffic. “The merchants have adapted,” says Claude Reinville of the Société de développement de l’avenue du Mont-Royal. They adjusted their schedules to account for the passage of visitors. And the movement on the terraces in the evening benefited neighboring enterprises. One solution among others?
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