A poll of key independent traders showed that seven-day weeks are the norm in the competitive sector, while more than two thirds said they still had to go in to man shops even when they were sick. Fewer than a third of those surveyed said they had staff or family members who could cover for them.
“I don’t do sick; it is not part of the equation,” said one retailer, echoing the typical response of many. “I have to drag myself in as I’ve got no choice.”
Another said: “You’ve got to go in even if you’re feeling really poorly as it is hard to get staff to cover for you at short notice.”
Not only did independent shop owners commonly work
more than a 12-hour day, but more than 90% of those quizzed also worked seven days a week. This does not necessarily mean that all shopkeepers constantly work an 84-hour week, but they are certainly working more than the national average. “Some days I do a little more than 12 hours, but not all the time,” said one retailer in the Midlands.
However, all the shop owners quizzed said they managed to get away on holiday each year, although some only managed a long weekend or a week at a time. “If you take a fortnight, you have too much work to come back to. I’m not sure my staff could handle all the extra duties for that long,” said one owner.
Others only went away for a week as they had to shut the shop when they did. “Shutting the shop makes it an expensive holiday even before you’ve packed your suitcase,” said one shop owner in the north west.
Others said they only got away “if they worked it right”, but felt they could not close shop as they had a duty to customers.
Not only do independent retailers work long hours, they also often work on bank holidays and Christmas Day. Nearly all of those polled - 96% - worked bank holidays. “It is sometimes hard to find staff willing to work on a bank holiday,” said one. “It is cheaper for me to work on a holiday than to pay staff extra,” said another.
One retailer in the Midlands said independent retailers should not feel they had to stay open all the time. Shutting early on Sundays had not done any long-term harm to his business. “You’ve got to have a break and have some time off,” he said.
>>p31 It’s all work and no play
Reader Panel: Independent Retailers