I try to “shop small” whenever I can - preferring smaller, locally-owned businesses to the large chain stores. But large chain stores seem to have the advantage of longer hours, and sometimes seem to have the additional advantage of actually sticking to those hours.
In recent social media chatter there were a number of local businesses that were being berated for being closed during the hours they purported to be open - at least according to the signs in their windows. Being a small town, the owners of those businesses chimed in after complaints were lodged with reasons they had been closed which ranged from being tired to having a medical emergency.
But none of them thought to notify their customers as to why they were closed either on social media or by simply putting a sign in the window. So that means that the sign that is in the window, proclaiming one’s business hours, is now something the customer is less likely to trust.
This is a strong statement but, in my own case, I had a crew of people coming to my house to work on a landscaping project so I promised a certain food, knowing that the place that makes it is open early. Well, theoretically. After making the drive to pick up their tasty treats, they were closed. No sign in the window. No notification on social media. Nothing.
This was the second time I made a special trip to this place to reward crews working for me and the second time - and now the last time - where they were closed for some reason.
Both times - no sign in the window. So I assume now that the sign that has their hours is just a lie or a suggestion. And I also know that I cannot rely on them to be open so I’m just not going to make the trip.
One fewer customer.
While I am absolutely no fan of Starbucks - neither their business model nor their product - I will say that their beautifully-decorated stores are open when they say they will be with uniformed team members in place to fill orders. They will sell you their product when they say they’re open with no excuses the moment the doors open. Maybe that’s why there’s always a line?
Furthermore, in our tourism economy, many people come to town looking to the Internet for specific types of experiences be that boat rentals or just a great margarita or a cup of coffee in the morning. While many, many local business owners denounce Yelp and TripAdvisor the fact is that these services are useful to travelers and part of the reason is that they have your business hours on them.
Or, at least, they should.
So is there a time when you shouldn’t follow that sign I the window? Perhaps.
There was a place in the town that I came from that made empanadas, a truly wonderful fried pastry that is filled with savory goodness. That store only made so many empanadas a day and, when they were sold out, they closed.
If you knew the store you knew this fact and you knew you had better get there early. Furthermore, they had a Twitter account and they would tweet out what kind of empanadas they had and then tweet again when they were gone. This created incredible demand and would drive traffic.
This place was so popular they didn’t have a sign - not even one with their hours. Just a Twitter account. And wonderful empanadas.
This is the perfect case for embracing social media and, even more so, Twitter. It creates a sense of urgency and, photos of the product at the outset of the day creates additional demand. With today’s smart phones and their incredible cameras it’s a great opportunity with almost no time investment and a huge Twitter or social media following is never a bad thing.
No matter what, consistency is a huge factor in sustainability in business. Being open when you say you’re open and otherwise being an organization that your customers can rely on means they’ll have fewer obstacles to returning and telling their friends.
Oh, and I got this idea from the sign in the window, in case you were wondering.