Consumers who go to malls at the beginning or end of the day do not always have the opportunity to complete all their purchases. Some retailers, due to a lack of manpower, are still struggling to respect the opening hours determined by the lessors.
Shops still closed at 11 a.m. while the mall opens at 10 a.m. And customers bumping their noses on the door at the end of the day long before the official closing. This kind of situation, commonplace during the pandemic, still persists in a few places.
“In some areas, I have stores that close earlier,” acknowledges Sylvain Lafrance, president of Groupe Marie Claire, which has some 300 stores. “I think with the labor shortage, consumers understand and have rallied. It’s like when you go to a restaurant, you wait longer. »
“We try as much as possible to respect [shopping center] hours,” adds Claudie Laroche, Marketing Director of Pop Shoes and Go Sport. “But for sure the lessor will understand if we can’t open because we don’t have staff. »
In early May, during a visit to Complexe Desjardins in downtown Montreal, La Presse observed that three stores were still closed, nearly an hour after the mall’s scheduled official opening. 9:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday.
A schedule posted in the door of one of the businesses even indicated opening hours that did not correspond to those of the Complexe Desjardins. Are landlords, who had been flexible during the pandemic, now requiring their tenants to stick to the mall’s schedule?
“It is indeed written in the regulations that merchants must respect the opening hours of the shopping center, answers Marie-Pier Labarre, director of marketing at Complexe Desjardins. On the other hand, we understand that some independents have more difficulty finding staff and we anticipate that everything will be resolved in the coming months. »
At Galeries d’Anjou, when we visited on a Monday morning, only one store was still closed, nearly 40 minutes after the mall opened.
At Groupe Mach, owner of several shopping centers throughout Quebec, including Place Longueuil, Le Carrefour de l’Estrie and Le Center des Rivières, we still notice an “improvement” in respect of opening hours.
“For a few weeks, even a few months, we have really seen a great improvement, assures Daniel Durand, vice-president, marketing and communications, of Groupe Mach. It became much more piecemeal. Traders sometimes have problems. They are going to close the store prematurely. But there is no longer a big trend through our centers. »
In some places, the company even organizes events to attract customers and thus encourage merchants to stay open. “In most of the agreements we have, merchants are asked to respect the opening hours of the mall. »
If not respected? “There is a follow-up that is done directly with the merchant so that he can correct the situation as quickly as possible, specifies Mr. Durand. The shopping center is a destination where the customer wants to find all his open stores. »
On the side of JLL, which notably manages the Center Eaton in downtown Montreal, the Galeries d’Anjou and Place Laurier in Quebec, Johanne Marcotte, executive vice-president, portfolio management, retail, affirms that it there is still “flexibility” with opening hours.
“These are defined according to the type of shopping center (urban, regional, etc.), the market in which it is located, while taking into consideration the needs and buying habits of consumers,” writes Ms. Marcotte in an email sent to La Presse. Although we cannot disclose contractual agreements, we encourage collaboration and communication with our partners. »
Moreover, 2023 could well be the year that marks the return to “real life” in retail. From the receipt of merchandise to sales and traffic, the first months of the year bode well, say the merchants interviewed.
This return to normal could well contribute to greater respect for opening hours, argues Daniel Durand. “Traffic in malls is improving tremendously, month by month. According to him, consumers are getting back to their habits. “They come back to shop in the evenings. I have the impression that, since there are customers in the malls, there is perhaps an effort that is made to keep the store open. »
Only at the Carrefour de l’Estrie, traffic increased in March by approximately 12% to 15% compared to the same period in 2019.
Lili Fortin, president of Tristan, feels like she’s breathing for the first time…since 2019. “Sales are good. Customers love the collection. They buy a lot. Shopping baskets are higher. I think people maybe have a little less sense of guilt when they buy value. »
The company is back to pre-pandemic performance, she says. “Last year, we still had delivery delays. We had production deadlines. »
Still in 2022, deliveries were late and arriving safely when the season had already begun, several retailers recalled.
“It made no sense,” recalls Jean-Philippe Clément, administrator of the Clément boutiques, known in particular for their children’s clothing. “There, there are suppliers who are ready to deliver to us before. This is unheard of. They are a month ahead. »
“It’s really a return to normal,” he observes. Container prices have come down. We’re around $4,000 for a container. It’s already been $26,000. »
“This is the first season where things are recovering, summarizes Lili Fortin, even if we have the cloud of inflation above our head. »