How Your Business Hours Are Making You Lose Customers and Profits
This post was contributed by Malcolm Townes, a Technology Development and Commercialization Specialist at Missouri University of Science and Technology In Rolla.
Businesses in Rolla, Missouri, like most rural small town businesses, face numerous challenges. Some of these challenges are externally-imposed while others are self-inflicted. Regardless of which type, figuring out how to deal with them is of paramount importance if you’re a small business owner.
That’s why the Office of Technology Transfer and Economic Development (TTED) at Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) recently held a seminar titled “How Your Business Hours Are Making You Lose Customers and Profits” featuring Becky McCray, a nationally recognized expert on rural small business. The seminar is the first in a series to address specific issues faced by rural small town businesses. However, many of the suggestions are applicable to small businesses regardless of their geographic location.
If you’re a rural small business owner, one of those self-inflicted challenges is the hours that you choose to be open. As many can attest, a lot of small town businesses seem to be open only during the standard business hours of 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. This may be fine if you’re serving other businesses. But those hours often aren’t the most convenient hours for your customers if you’re targeting retail consumers and the like. If your business is only open during standard business hours you’re probably losing customers and profits. This is true not only for retail stores but also many service providers such as attorneys, dentists, insurance agents, real estate agents, financial planning specialists, beauty salons, etc. Fortunately, it’s something that you can take quick action to address.
According to McCray there are several steps that you can take to offer more convenient h hours to better serve your customers while boosting your sales and profits. To be successful your business needs to be open during the times that customers want to do business. As McCray reported during the seminar, more than 70 percent of all consumer retail spending happens on the weekends and after 6:00 pm during weekdays. The top four money-making times to be open are 11:00 am to 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday. The fact of the matter seems to be that busy people want to do business on evenings and weekends and these days just about everyone seems to be busy. Most large retailers have figured this out which is why they’re typically open 10:00 am to 10:00 pm including weekends. Given that rural small businesses have a smaller pool of potential customers, it’s even more important for them to be open for business when their customers are ready to do business.
If you own a small rural business, you don’t have the resources of large national and regional competitors. So even if you want to be open during evening and weekend hours, it’s often difficult to make it happen. McCray offers a number of suggestions as to how rural small businesses can transition to more lucrative, customer-friendly hours. Among her numerous suggestions are starting off by offering evening and weekend hours coinciding with special events like parades, community fairs, and any event that draws a large crowd of people. A logical next step could be offering special holiday hours, extended evening hours once a week, or special weekend hours once a month. From there you can gradually extend your hours throughout the week and into the weekend on a permanent basis.
You may need to hire additional staff to accommodate evening and weekend hours. The additional revenue and profits should more than cover the added expense of additional staff. If the initial costs of hiring extra staff are a problem, McCray suggests partnering with another small business to share the cost or creating a staffing pool with a group of other small businesses as possible ways to mitigate the expense.
If your business hasn’t previously offered evening and weekend hours, you’ll need to make a concerted effort to let potential customers know about your more convenient business hours. Making customers aware of your new hours may take some time. McCray offers several suggestions to help rural small businesses get the word out such as using social networks, signboards, and cross-promotions with other businesses.
If you’re a small town business owner, you already face a number of inherent challenges. There’s no need to make things any tougher. The hours that your business operates are one of the few things over which you have absolute control. It can also have a big influence on your level of success. With just a few tweaks to your business hours you may be able to give your business a big boost.