When should you be opening your store over the Christmas period?

The Better Retailing team finds out when retailers will be opening their stores around the festive period and why

Christmas is a time of national celebration, with people planning to spend time with family and friends over the festive period. This is also true for retailers, but they must balance the fact that Christmas is also an incredibly profitable time of year, with people looking to stock up, not to mention those last-minute emergency top-up shops for the things that might have been forgotten in the run-up to the big day. 

Staying open around this time provides an important service for your community. But it’s also important to recognise that the people working in your store – whether that’s staff or you and your family – also need time off to spend with their loved ones. 

“One Christmas Eve, we shut early so the staff can go home,” says Harj Dhasee, from The Village Shop in Mickleton, Gloucestershire. “People with young families will work the morning and people without will work the afternoon, but everyone can get home early for Christmas Eve.” 

With Christmas Day falling on Monday, there will be the added question of whether retailers opt for a Sunday opening hour approach on Christmas Eve or change things up because of the nearness of Christmas itself. 

“We try to be as understanding as possible because there will be people who want time off with family and people who want extra shifts, so we work around those,” says Christine Hope, from Hopes of Longtown in Herefordshire. 

Ultimately, retailers can assess their sales data around Christmas to find out what the financial implications are for changing the opening hours around a bit during the festive period, but it also requires a more personal approach, talking to staff about their Christmas plans, understanding what your own personal needs are, and talking to customers. 

“It’s about talking to the community, asking what they’re doing for Christmas Day and working with that,” says Marty Uppal, from Fixby Stores in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. “But we only get that half-day off once a year, so I’m taking it.” 

 Think about staff 

Chris Cobb closes his Cults Stores in Aberdeen at 4pm on Sundays and at 7pm on other days, but this year he will close at 3pm on Christmas Eve as he has done for some time. His store remains closed all through Christmas Day and opens for a few hours on Boxing Day along with a home news delivery service. 

“It’s a balancing act. We found that after 3pm on Christmas Eve, it gets a bit dead anyway,” he says. “And I’ve got a big Sainsbury’s and a Tesco Express near me, and they’ll be open regardless. When the superstores used to close early on Christmas Eve, we’d stay open later, but those days are gone. 

“Now there’s no need to stay open financially and it’s important to give the staff that time off as well. You’ll be paying them double time as well if you keep them on and those last-minute sales you pick up won’t justify that cost. And the staff want to get home as well anyway.” 

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 Christmas Day is a chance to connect 

Harj Dhasee, from The Village Shop in Mickleton, Gloucestershire, opens for an hour every Christmas Day from 10am until the pubs open at 11am. It’s just him there, so there are no added staff costs, and it’s treated more as an opportunity to chat to his community and share a mince pie and a glass of port. 

“We’ve done it for years now,” he says. “I live in the village, so it’s a chance to have a chat before we go straight to the pub.” 

On Boxing Day, staff open the store for four hours in the morning so he can have the day off. 

“You’ve got to balance what you need for you and your family,” he says. “Get your priorities straight. It’s only one day a year and you should spend it with your family. It’s precious and you never get it back. And then look at what your community needs? Do they really need you to be open from 7am until 10pm on Christmas Day?” 

 Take orders to reduce the crush 

On Christmas Day and Boxing Day, Hopes of Longtown in Herefordshire is closed to give staff members more time with their family. They also close at 2pm on Christmas Eve, but owner Christine Hope drives huge amounts of trade and reduces wastage through a Christmas order form for her customers. 

“It’s a 14-page document with a selection of food, drink and alcohol – with a focus on local – and people order what they want and then they come and collect it over the three days before Christmas,” she says. “They pay on collection and it’s a fair bit of work to get it organised, but it means there aren’t huge queues at the till and it keeps wastage down. We’d never carry 32kg of Brussels sprouts, but if they’ve been ordered, you can get them in and you know they’re being collected and paid for. It’s all time-slotted, so you have time to speak to people and thank them for their custom.” 

 Christmas Day sales 

While many retailers will close on Christmas Day, Marty Uppal, from Fixby Stores in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, opens the store himself for four hours on the day itself to take advantage of last-minute impulsive sales without any additional staffing costs. 

“We worked it out over time through trial and error,” he says. “But it’s one of the busiest periods for us – between 10am and 2pm – because everyone’s getting ready for Christmas lunch and they decide to get a cheeky bottle of whisky or vodka, or they realise they need foil for the turkey or batteries for a present. Each store is different, so you need to talk to people and know when they wake up, when they have lunch, and work around that. It’s about talking to the community.” 

Uppal also opens an hour later every day during the ‘Christmas week’ to reflect people sleeping in during the holidays, but to give himself some rest as well.

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