Labor shortage: The way out, reduce working hours

A shortage of workers, combined with increasingly fierce competition from e-commerce, is forcing more and more small and large retailers to significantly reduce their opening hours.

• Also read: Labor Shortage: Quebec employers willing to hire with no direct experience

• Also read: He is forced to reduce his customer list by almost 40%

“I don’t do it voluntarily. But if I didn’t close on Sundays, I would be working seven days a week, that’s all I would do,” says Gerardo Marasco, owner of a RONA hardware store on Mont-Royal Avenue in Montreal.

“Before the pandemic, I managed to only work four days a week. But since the hygiene measures were lifted, I have to work a six-day week. No matter how hard I try to recruit and put up posters in my windows, it’s like nobody needs or wants to work more than a few hours a week. »

Result: The DIY store Plateau-Mont-Royal has to deal with a reduced team of just two employees.

“If I count myself, sometimes we manage to be the three of us. But very often there are only two of us on the floor. That’s not enough,” he says, nostalgic for that fledgling era, when he could count on having up to ten case workers available when it came to completing the week’s work schedules.

The hardware store in Montreal has therefore decided to close on Sundays and no longer open the doors until 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday evenings as before.

Because he can’t help it, his shop now closes at 5pm every day of the week, to the chagrin of his customers, who can’t visit his shop during their working hours.

A strong trend

Mr Marasco’s case is anything but anecdotal. Jean-Guy Côté, executive director of the Quebec Retail Council (CQCD), gets wind of such stories every day.

With no fewer than 25,000 vacancies in the industry, its members – retailers across all trades – would have no choice but to put up with the reduction in their opening hours, he assures. A heartbreaking and counterintuitive choice, for the most part.

In addition to building materials dealers, these downward opening hours can also be observed in furniture and decoration dealers.

Maison Corbeil, Must and Mariette Clermont to name a few are now opting to no longer open on Thursday and Friday nights, slots that have been successful in the past.

Saturdays, Sundays and … closed.

Optometry shops are also massively reducing their opening hours wherever possible. For example, outside of shopping malls, which often require standard opening hours, New Look-branded stores’ hours are often reduced to their simplest expression. They are not only closed on Sundays, but often also on Saturdays.

“We would open on weekends if possible; But how do you intend to achieve this in the absence of employees? It just doesn’t work anymore,” explains a sales consultant from a prominent branch in the metropolis.

Ditto regarding competing Iris-branded stores. Even in Outremont, his boutique on Rue Bernard is closed every weekday evening, plus Saturdays and Sundays. Looking to shop for eyewear in this affluent Montreal neighborhood? You still have weekdays before 5 p.m. and by appointment only.

A dangerous reflex

Jacques Nantel, professor emeritus at HEC Montréal and retail specialist, sees this trend of slow but gradual reduction of small retailers’ opening hours as the most obvious confirmation of the existence of a labor shortage.

But surely there are also multifactorial difficulties, such as the increasing strength of web competitors, who are snatching more and more market shares from the so-called traditional dealers.

The expert says he understands that breathless retailers have the reflex to limit their opening hours.

“The problem is that by reducing their opening hours in this way retailers – a strategy at odds with that of giants like Coscto and Walmart – give consumers another reason to turn to the same competitors, to which of course you’re adding must Amazon. »

The price to pay

On the contrary, Richard Darveau, a passionate supporter of retailers’ right to reduce their opening hours, believes that this is the price consumers must accept in order to benefit from the services of professionals in specialty stores.

“There is nothing more frustrating for a customer than arriving at a hardware store and not being able to find a clerk who can answer their questions,” explains the executive director of the Association Québécoise de la hardware construction.

“If we want our dealers to have the means to pay skilled employees according to their skills, we also have to accept that even if they lose the money, they won’t be open all hours of the day and night.” »

“Because in the end, he continues, the little ones only have the know-how of a competent saleswoman to defend themselves against giants like Amazon. »

Do you have any information about this story that you would like to share with us?

Do you have a scoop that might be of interest to our readers?

Write to us or call us directly at 1-800-63SCOOP.

Leave a Comment