Economy

Is 24/7 the future of your business?

Yolanda Redrup /

Late last week, fast-food chain Pie Face announced its latest expansion – a 24/7 drive-through in Queensland.

The move may seem strange, but this isn’t Pie Face’s first time: the chain has a small number of 24-hour shops already open in major cities.

The openings are the culmination of a trend affecting retailers across the country. Increasingly consumers are demanding goods and services at all hours of the day, and businesses are being forced to alter their business models to keep up with the demand and capitalise on new hours of trade.

Retail Oasis director Nerida Jenkins told SmartCompany the rise of 24-hour stores has been consumer driven.

“This trend is showing a number of things, as there have been significant changes in the way our lives are structured. There used to be a focus on work-life separation, but now it’s all about work-life integration,” she says.

“We’re constantly available to work, so our lives have had to alter around it. It shows a massive trend toward consumer empowerment.”

Jenkins says it’s no longer the case of a pharmacy saying: “Here’s the prescription, here’s when you can get it filled”, now the consumer holds the balance of power.

“This change has also been fuelled by the internet and the sophisticated shopper who demands to be able to do things at their own time,” she says.

Consumer power has caused a diverse range of businesses to now be open around the clock. A person can find florists, gyms, cafes, supermarkets, service stations, casinos, auto services, entertainment complexes and liquor stores.

Even retailers have cashed in on the growing phenomenon with many online stores now offering 24-hour customer service support lines.

In 2010 the City of Melbourne noticed the growing trend and launched its 24-hour city policy.

The need for flexibility in consumers’ lives is seen by the continuing growth of 24-hour gyms in Australia and peak online shopping times.

A 2012 study by WorldPay into global online shopping trends of 19,000 people found the peak time to shop online was 8:05pm.

Jetts Fitness founder Brendon Levenson previously told SmartCompany his decision to go online was motivated by the importance of meeting consumer needs.

“We decided to build a gym concept based purely around the customer. All our ideas and policies were developed around this philosophy, and what we ended up with as a result was a gym model that the customer wanted,” he says.

“We challenged every element of conventional thinking in the gym industry. Jetts pioneered 24/7 access, no contracts as standard, capped memberships to avoid overcrowding and membership rates half that of other models.”

IBISWorld analyst Craig Shulman told SmartCompany these types of gyms and businesses have emerged as consumers have become more time poor.

“Consumers are now more restricted in their hours to do extra-curricular activities and so these businesses are taking advantage of that,” he says.

“In terms of possible challenges, within the fitness industry the rapid rise of these gyms has led to some substantial competition in the space, so with many franchises now providing a similar service, many may exit as quickly as they entered.”

Shulman says before becoming a 24/7 business, companies need to determine whether or not they can afford the cost and work out the number of staff required.

“It’s great for these businesses to capitalise on the time poor environment, but consumers generally need to be more self-reliant later at night, particularly in gyms, as most have to operate on lower staff numbers,” he says.

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