When do home improvement centers close on Sundays or weeknights? Customers and hardware dealers agree on one thing: the decision to reduce opening hours would be a “lesser evil”, if it means having competent employees on the floor at all times. Based on this observation, hardware stores want to be able to agree on their opening hours among themselves in order to avoid unfair competition. They will make their point of view to the Competition Bureau of Canada.

Nearly 77% of merchants are willing to make a concession on the schedule rather than reducing the number of employees present to answer questions in the aisles. On the consumer side, 61% of them prefer this option: fewer hours, but service at all times.

This is what emerges from two surveys conducted by CROP and the Quebec Association of Hardware and Building Materials (AQMAT), the results of which were released Thursday in Saint-Hyacinthe at the the organization.

“The merchant is there and the consumer is ready to go there”, summarizes the president and CEO of AQMAT, Richard Darveau. He acknowledges that the two investigations give him a free hand to continue his crusade on the reduction of opening hours.

To avoid unfair competition, Richard Darveau would like hardware stores in the same region to agree among themselves to agree on the same opening hours. However, for the moment, they expose themselves to charges of collusion which could result in a prison sentence or a fine. His association therefore submitted a draft resolution that would give him the mandate to challenge the interpretation of the Competition Bureau of Canada to this effect. The resolution received 85% support, 55 people voted. AQMAT intends to move forward.

Last year, the Competition Bureau warned Mr. Darveau that he could be fined up to $25 million or even jailed if he encouraged his members to hear about common opening hours.

La Presse had revealed at the start of the year that nearly half of hardware stores have reduced their opening hours in 2022, according to a review carried out by AQMAT. Out of some 800 stores, 400 have made this change.

“We decided to close on Sundays and weeknights,” said Nicolas Couture, president of Couture Timber Mart, which has four stores in the Eastern Townships. Customers want to have expertise at all times. Does the expertise want to work anytime, seven days a week, with opening hours in detail? No. »

But not everyone dares to change their schedule. “I have members who tell me that they would like to reduce their hours, but that they are afraid of the consequences,” says Richard Darveau.

Thus, among the customers surveyed – homeowners – 76% said that reduced hours at the hardware store at the beginning of the week would not inconvenience them little or not. This proportion increases to 66% if the business was closed on a weekday and to 68% if it was on Sunday.

For their part, 71% of merchants believe that a Sunday closing would “not be penalizing” for customers. On the other hand, the idea of ​​closing shop on a weekday rallies few hardware stores since 87% say it is not a good idea.

In addition, Richard Darveau relies on the importance of offering expertise in store. “The expectations are not the same when you walk into a bike shop, a convenience store or a hardware store. »

In the survey, nearly 53% of respondents believe that expertise is important when they set foot in a hardware store. This proportion drops to 19% for a grocery store and 18% for a clothing store. “Clients have very high expectations when it comes to the relationships they have with your employees,” said Stéphane Gendron, vice-president, marketing and opinion polls at CROP, during the presentation of the results. This is your business security policy for the future. »

According to him, if the consumer has an attachment to a business, they will compromise on hour changes.

Present at the convention, Manuel Champagne, General Manager of Retail Quebec, the sector-based retail labor committee, was pleasantly surprised by these data. “Clients are much more open than I thought to different [hour reduction] scenarios. »

The results of the two surveys were forwarded to the office of the Minister of Economy, Innovation and Energy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, as well as to the Conseil québécois du commerce de retail (CQCD) and the Canadian Retail Council detail (CCCD).