Retailers urged to look beyond 9 to 5

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The Association of Town Centre Management is offering shops some advice - stop closing when everyone comes out of their workplace! You might think this would be obvious, but if you've ever worked in retail go ahead and ask yourself: did you stop work between 5 and 6? Many smaller shops do precisely that.
A family member of mine was in a related field until earlier this year and constantly advised people in our small town centre that closing at 5pm was not their best way forward. They would typically disagree, tell her it had been working OK for many years - and then come to her with a business problem relating to lower sales. A few short hours later, at around 6pm, people would start emerging in large numbers from the train station after working on their City jobs - so these were probably the more affluent residents - and then they would walk past the closed shops en route to their homes.

Other factors

The ATCM has now checked this with proper research and found that sales typically go up by 50% between 5pm and 8pm if you stay open.

Meanwhile readers of the Observer newspaper may have seen comedian and columnist David Mitchell being quite serious this Sunday about how e-shopping is killing the High Street, and how we all ought to start buying things in person again.

He may have a point, although I doubt that e-shopping is going to stop. Nor would I urge people to abandon it, because I have no reason to wish the e-retailers and their staff out of business.

But I would try to persuade people working in shops to stop closing when their most likely customers are coming home from work. The High Street has been established for a couple of hundred years at best; that's longer than any of our lifetimes but a speck in the total human history. There's nothing natural or inevitable about stores being there, it's just how things happen to have developed so far. They can develop in another direction just as easily.

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