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Matching opening hours to when customers can come in and buy

Supermarkets such as Asda are open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and tomorrow, and parking in Melksham is free too, thanks to Wiltshire Council. What an excellent day it would have been to encourage local residents - who may be out and about town - to use their High Street. Small problem - many of the shops are shutting for a long weekend too, so even those of us who want to support a local trader can't do so.

We know what it's like to run a customer-facing business; Well House Manor is open from 06:30 on weekdays and 07:30 at the weekend, until at least 21:00 every evening, and our business model is designed to have us available for our customers when our customers need us. The big supermarkets started as High Street stores too, and they've learned with their model that they'll do better if they're available for customers for long hours, including substantial shopping opportunities for people with conventional 9 to 5, Monday to Friday jobs (66% of the working population works roughly these hours). Perhaps it's because they've got so many things right that they do rather well.

At Well House, we're not retailers who buy in bulk (wholesale), sell in smaller quantities, and pay our staff and ourselves, and the other costs of our operation from the markups we apply. And our customers' profile is strongly that of the very intelligent, employed and healthy business person. It's predominantly male, and it's predominantly people who don't live in Melksham - who (indeed) probably looked up Melksham on a map to find out exactly where it was before they decided to come to us. So our model is very different to the model that applies to a typical retailer.

Our Well House Customer base certainly finds it frustrating that the shops close at 5 p.m. or 5.30 p.m. while they're with us on courses, or staying at the hotel and working for any one of a number of major companies at Bowerhill. If that's a customer base that the town's traders are wishing to harness, then they would do well to be open (and co-ordinated) at least on one evening per week. That's when our customers use the pubs, restaurants and takeawys too, and many of them seem to do rather well. Our customer base is numerically small, but, surely, those other customers of "The Bear", "The Parson's Nose", "The Kebab House", "The Fisheries", "Ku", "The Refa" and others offer potential trade that's - err - lost is you're not open.

Here's a radical thought for a hypothetical new business in the town. Take Tuesday and Wednesday off as your weekend. And open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays to Mondays. That's a 50 hour week. You'll catch weekend traffic. You'll catch evening traffic as people come into town on their way to the pubs and restaurants. You'll catch traditional daytime shoppers on the Thursday and Firday, and at the start of the week on Monday when they may have run out of something over the weekend. It's free parking after 6 p.m. too. And for goodness sake consider opening on the Bank Holidays too, when people have the opportunity to be around.






Update

It's Jubilee Bank Holiday Monday.

I walked through the town this afternoon - starting at 3:30 from the Market Square, down to the bridge over the river Avon and back. I was testing the theory that it's pointless the shops being open on a Bank Holiday because no-one's about that has been expressed to me by some (but not all) of the traders.

21 businesses were open. 73 were closed. And in the 15 minutes or so it took me, I passed 93 people who weren't in their cars - walking up and down, making their way from "a" to "b" where that takes them past shopfronts. That's more than one person per closed shop.

I spoke with an old long-established aquaintance in one of the open businesses, and she was telling me that they had been rushed off their feet, with people coming in grumbling about how little was open.

Open: Backhouse Bet; Blockbuster; Newsagents; William Hill; Specsavers. The Grapes; The Bear. Sainsbury's; Domino; Waitrose; Mamma Mia; Chicken Hut; Kebab House; Superdrug; Parson's Nose; Pound Stretcher; Chick-o-Land; King's Arms; Tavern; Cornerstone Cafe; Factory Shop. What do they have in common? They're all successful businesses - our takeaways and pubs are buoyant, and the other stores are largely ones that started from humble beginnings and have grown from a single shop in a single town to much more. "Even on a Bank Holiday Monday you can get most of what you need in Melksham" and those businesses that chose not to open have really only got themselves to blame if they've lost custom.


(written 2012-06-04, updated 2012-06-09)

 
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This is a page archived from The Horse's Mouth at http://www.wellho.net/horse/ - the diary and writings of Graham Ellis. Every attempt was made to provide current information at the time the page was written, but things do move forward in our business - new software releases, price changes, new techniques. Please check back via our main site for current courses, prices, versions, etc - any mention of a price in "The Horse's Mouth" cannot be taken as an offer to supply at that price.

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