Sunday, December 6, 2015

Some stores extend hours for holidays; Merchants president thinks they need to do that year-yound

By Andrea Richard
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

As the December holidays fast approach, Midway shoppers are seeing longer business operating hours – something the president of the Midway Merchants Association would like to see continue.

After Thanksgiving, some stores, like the Damselfly Gallery, extend their hours on Friday and Saturday nights. Other shops, like the White Horse Collection, extend their hours based on the flow of traffic.

Stores are decked out for Christmas, but most don't stay open late.
However, shoppers should not get accustomed to the new hours. After the season, the stores will operate on their normal schedule, one that Merchants President Kenny Smith  thinks falls short of the city’s potential.

“Seventy percent of retail is done after 6 o’clock,” Smith told the Merchants at their October meeting, quoting a research study that he found. Yet, “Here at five, the doors are locked and everybody goes home.”

Leslie Penn, owner of the Historic Midway Museum Store, told Smith that his statistic was representative of malls, not small businesses like the ones in Midway. Smith said his statistic is representative of everywhere, and told the merchants that the times his business, Kennydid Gallery, has stayed open, sometimes until 8 p.m., he has had customers ask why all the stores are closed.

“’Cause we’re not a mall,” Penn replied.

“But we are merchants, and we are in the business to make money,” Smith responded.

Early closing hours is not the only problem Midway shoppers face. According to Smith, customers complain about businesses not opening at all on Sundays.

“Invariably people come in on Sunday, lots of people, and say ‘Why is nobody open?’”

Smith said visitors travel from Louisville and Cincinnati on Sundays only to find stores closed.

“If we get a reputation that we’re never open, it doesn’t matter how much advertising we do,” Smith said. ”People aren’t going to come.”

Mondays are also an issue. Don Durs, owner of Old Towne Antiques, said in an interview that he has heard several customers complain about stores being closed on the first normal business day of the week.

“One would think that they would follow Macy’s. They’re open seven days a week,” Durs said. 

“Don’t sit here and tell me that we don’t open on Monday because there is no business. You’re not open. If you’re not open … how do you know?”

Along with early closing hours, and stores not opening at all, some shoppers find late opening hours to be a problem too.

At 9:45 on Saturday mornings, most businesses are not set to open. When 10:00 rolls around, only a handful of shops have opened their doors. Most open at 11. One boutique does not open until noon.

Cathy Jackson of Boonville, Ind. stopped on East Main Street before visiting relatives in Midway one day last month.

“We got here at 10 thinking most of the stores would be open at 10,” Jackson said. “I just wish we would have known because we were planning our day around coming here first.”

Jackson said she’s not a big shopper, but was “looking forward to going in and out of a bunch of the stores” to see what Midway merchants had to offer. Instead, a lot of shops lost her potential business, she said.

Jackson wasn’t the only disappointed shopper in Midway that day. Sisters-in-law Kristina McDowell and Julia McDowell said they were “trying to figure out what … to do” after finding most shops didn’t open until 11.

Durs’s shop is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.

“We’ve been opening at 10 o’clock for 26 years,” Durs said. “Whatever [the other shops] want to do, that’s their business.”

But Durs isn’t for later hours. When asked his opinion of Smith’s presentation at the Merchants Association meeting, Durs said, “After 6 o’clock it’s all restaurants.” He said most customers “either come browsing before going in for their reservation, or they go eat. When they get out at 7, or 8 or 9 o’clock, they go home.”

Other Midway business owners like Roz Roney-Dougal, owner of the White Horse Collection, share the belief that quick browsing before or after dinner would not bring their businesses much trade.

Roney-Dougal said her store is open Tuesday through Saturday until 5 p.m. She said if the merchants were to advertise to the horse community, and the city were to get more restaurants, it would be worth staying open. But, as it is, “People do not cross the street when they’re going to dinner to shop.”

When asked about weekend hours, and whether businesses should stay open for out-of-town visitors, Roney-Dougal said “No, because there’s no hotel.”

“If they were staying in Midway, of course. But people who come here after 5, 6 o’clock, are going to dinner, and that’s it.”

However, Smith doesn’t believe that a lack of traffic after 5 p.m. is an excuse for businesses to close early.

Smith says he sees the traffic, since his gallery (which is near restaurants on Main Street) is open seven days a week and stays open as late as 8 on some weekend nights.

“I invariably have people come in who have driven here from Indianapolis, Louisville or Cincinnati, and they’ll ask ‘Why are you the only one open?’ And what do I tell them? Because at 5 o’clock they lock their doors and they go home,” Smith said.

“We have to develop a reputation of being customer-friendly,” he added. “Not everybody can come during the day between 11 to 5, because the people who have the money to spend are working to earn that money.” 

Mary Thoreson, owner of the Damselfly Gallery on the other side of Main Street, said she has tried opening earlier and closing later.

“I’ve opened early, stayed late; opened late, stayed late, and I’ve never thought that I’ve lost much business, closing between 5 and 6. What I have always found is that after that, people are really coming to eat. They may come in and browse and come back later, but they’re not really here to shop. That’s my experience.”

Thoreson said most of the complaints come from businesses not opening at all. “Anybody that comes here is making an effort to come here,” Thoreson said. “It’s a tourist destination. So when they drive here, and people aren’t open, that leads to complaints.”

Thoreson, whose business is open seven days a week, said she believes most businesses are closed on Monday because owners are tired.

“They’re all mom-and-pop stores,” she said. “I think people need a day off.”

Smith said that at age 68, he’s one of the oldest business owners on East Main Street, and he works seven days a week.

“If I get tired, I take a nap, and that’s usually at night after I go home,” he said. “If you’re going to be in business, and you can’t be here, hire somebody.”

Smith said if Midway gets the reputation of “never being open on Sunday or Monday,” customers who come looking to shop will “probably never come back.”

“I have people call me because they’ve been to the website and saw I was a contact person, and they’ll say ‘All right, I’m bringing a group on Monday,’ and I have to be honest and say things won’t be open. Or they’ll call and say I’m bringing a group on Sunday, and there are maybe three of us that are open on Sunday, four at most, and I can’t tell them ‘Sure, everybody will be open,’ because I know they won’t be. That hurts the image of Midway. It hurts my business. It hurts their business.”

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