Opinion

It seems like not so long ago late night shopping was all the rage.

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This article was published 20/2/2019 (786 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It seems like not so long ago late night shopping was all the rage.

Osborne Village night owls and shift workers across the city -- not to mention groggy parents with children who suffer from sudden late-night ailments -- are bemoaning the fact that Shoppers Drug Mart has decided that it can't justify the costs and will end the all-night hours at its three remaining Winnipeg stores that are still open 24 hours.

When the big-box phenomenon had taken hold, it seemed like they could just casually flex their market domination might -- almost like they were showing off -- and stay open 24 hours as if to put an exclamation point on how they were bigger and better than their puny competition.

Walmart and Superstore have dabbled in all-night operations in Winnipeg, but that's now limited to the Christmas season.

And what about all the hype we've heard from retailers about how they will battle Amazon and the scourge of e-commerce by making the bricks-and-mortar shopping experience so fantastic and consumer-friendly and convenient that shoppers will love coming to the store?

Osborne Village's Shoppers Drug Mart will no longer be open 24 hours a day -- in April its hours will change to 8 a.m. to midnight. 
(Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press)

Osborne Village's Shoppers Drug Mart will no longer be open 24 hours a day -- in April its hours will change to 8 a.m. to midnight. (Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press)

John Torella, a retail consultant with the J.C. Williams Group of Toronto, said consumers now understand they have some power and if 24-hour shopping is convenient for them, the retailers should respond.

What Shoppers shoppers think of the change

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The Free Press asked customers outside the Shoppers Drug Mart in Osborne Village for their thoughts on the store not remaining open 24-7. Here's what they had to say:

Bob Blight

Bob Blight
(Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press)

Bob Blight (Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press)

"I think a lot of people who work shift work will be affected," said Blight. The retiree, who lives in Osborne Village and walks to Shoppers Drug Mart, said he shops during the day and won't be impacted by the 24-hour store closing at midnight starting April 22 -- but thinks people needing prescriptions filled overnight will be.  

Beth Derraugh

Beth Derraugh
(Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press)

Beth Derraugh (Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press)

The area resident said she thinks security likely has something to do the store's decision not to remain open 24 hours a day. "I don't come out at night," said the senior, who was on foot running errands Wednesday.

Fewer store employees, and customers shopping during the wee hours when so few people are out and about, should be a concern.  

"We really have to have a sense of safety," she said. "It makes sense," she said of the store's plan to close overnight.

Wayne Lewis

Wayne Lewis
(Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press)

Wayne Lewis (Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press)

"It doesn't matter to me," said Lewis, who drove to the Shoppers store in the Village.

He said he's lived in the area for 16 years and has never had a reason to visit the store overnight. 

Adriana 

Adrianna 
(Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press)

Adrianna (Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press)

"It's sad to see," said Adriana, an area resident who didn’t want her last name published. She was of two minds about the store not staying open 24-7.

"A lot of people depend on it being open late," she said. "At the same time, safety for the employees is absolutely necessary."

People survived before the Shoppers in the Village was open all night, she noted.

"Retailers are trying to find the balance between the consumer who wants more convenience, to take the hassle out and make it easy for them, and the need for cost and efficiencies," Torella said. "But (ending all-night hours) seems like it's in opposition to what the consumer is looking for -- convenience, my way or the highway, 24/7."

Clearly, in the case of Shoppers Drug Mart, the cost factor has won out.

Munther Zeid, owner of five city Food Fare stores in Winnipeg, says he's been in a Shoppers late at night and there was no one else there.

"If Shoppers was making money they would stay open," he said.

But Zeid, for one, is not losing any sleep over whether or not stay open all night. He said if his operation was big enough that he needed to staff a night shift to stock shelves, he might consider it. But it does not sound like he's pining to give it a go.

"Shoplifting would go through the roof," he said.

Incidents like the recent shootings at a late-night diner in Winnipeg likely vanquished the thoughts any local proprietors might have had about extending operations into the wee hours.

Even during normal shopping hours, security is becoming a growing cost for retailers who lose billions of dollars to shoplifting every year.

On-site security guards at all sorts of stores -- from Manitoba Liquor Marts to Shoppers Drug Marts -- are now the norm, not the exception. Torella said security expenses in general have gone up for retailers.

"Whether it's security guards or technology being applied, security in the store is certainly a big concern," he said. "Theft has a major impact on cost. Someone will pay eventually and it ends up being the consumers."

And that is not going to fly. Online shopping has upped the game of even the savviest of shoppers. Which raises the question: if they can be sitting at home in their pajamas shopping any time they please, why do the stores need to be open past midnight? (The Shoppers Drug Mart stores currently open all night will transition to 8:00 a.m. to midnight hours -- Pembina Village & South Park Drive on Feb. 25, and Roslyn Road and Osborne Street and 2533 Portage Ave. on April 22.)

"Absolutely, online shopping is impacting the demand for stores to be open 24 hours. That's definitely a factor," Torella said. "Walmart just came off one of the best quarters ever (with revenue of $138.8 billion US!) and lots of the growth was from e-commerce."

But that's not to say all-night shopping is a thing of the past. Torella says it can make a lot of sense in densely populated urban neighbourhoods with mixed-use housing, where people live work and shop in the same building.

"Retail is very local," he said. "It depends a great deal on the community and the mix of that community."

In an email exchange, Julie Dunham, Shoppers Drug Mart's senior manager, external communications, said after-hours demand at those three Winnipeg stores -- the chain has a total of 33 stores in Winnipeg -- was just too low.

But that's not to say it can't work elsewhere.

"We are evaluating our store operations across the country, however we do not plan to reduce hours at all of our 24-hour locations," she said.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Martin Cash

Martin Cash
Reporter

Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.

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