Traditional Australian retailers have had a tough couple of years and if anything has a chance to revive the struggling industry it’s Christmas. Therefore, allowing retailers to apply to be open 24/7 in the lead-up to Christmas is a no-brainer, and a great idea backed by the Australian Retail Association and many local councils.
The question is whether bricks-and-mortar retailers are able to sustain longer opening hours on a more consistent basis outside the Christmas shopping bonanza. Obviously there are extra costs in terms of staffing for retailers to consider when making this move, but from a convenience perspective I believe it makes sense for retailers to be open well beyond 5pm.
Longer working hours often mean the closing times for many retailers are no longer relevant to working Australians, and quite simply more money can be made when doors are open for longer periods.
However, making shopping more convenient is only one part of the equation. The other critical factor when looking at reviving the retail climate is to improve the shopping experience. This means going beyond merely having capable and proficient staff available to help customers shop to creating a tailored shopping environment designed to make shopping fun rather than a chore.
Big market players in Australia could nail one of the areas of greatest opportunity – yet, to date, the weekly grocery run remains a mundane experience requiring people to fight traffic, parking lots and queues, often returning home exhausted.
Grocery shopping in Australia is a bore, which is why many people now do as much as they can online. Yet weekly online shopping requires a degree of organization that means a large segment of the population isn’t being captured. I don’t have the answers, but I can see where a huge opportunity is currently being missed.
We only need to look offshore at some brands nailing the retail experience to improve how we treat our customers here. Train stations in Asia have QR codes enabling commuters to do their shopping on their phones as they are travelling to and from work, with the groceries delivered to their front door by the time they make it home.
Similarly many high-end fashion retailers offer champagne and caviar to their customers while trying on clothes, or have renowned DJs playing to attract people to the store, and provide more of a festival atmosphere when trying on the latest fashion.
Gone are the days of inflexible shopping, and extended opening hours are a major step to making shopping more convenient. When combined with a more authentic experience in-store, retailers will be well on the way to emerging from the glut suffered since the global downturn in spending.