Pricewatch: Time for 24/7 Ireland, consumers say

Demand for out-of-hours services rising as more work outside nine to five, survey finds

People in Ireland aged 18-34 are most frustrated that they cannot access hospitality services when they want, with 43 per cent saying they expected 24-hour services, a survey has found.

People in Ireland aged 18-34 are most frustrated that they cannot access hospitality services when they want, with 43 per cent saying they expected 24-hour services, a survey has found.

 

There was a time – and it is not all that long ago – when Ireland used to simply shut up shop on a regular basis and we all just accepted that as normal and got on with things.

All but the smallest corner shops would close on a Saturday evening and not reopen until Monday morning. Television stations used to play us the national anthem shortly before midnight every night of the week and then take themselves off to bed leaving us with nothing more stimulating than the test card to watch.

And gyms would – well, we didn’t really have gyms back then.

But since the 1980s things have changed dramatically in Ireland and elsewhere and the Morrissey song of that time, Everyday is Like Sunday, has been rendered meaningless, not least because Sunday is now like every other day of the week.

There are Spar shops that might as well have the front doors removed as they stay open 24 hours a day 365 days a year, while Insomnia and Starbucks also have a handful of 24-hour stores in Dublin to cater for shift workers and, well, insomniacs.

Banks – which used to have ridiculously short opening hours – are now opening for longer and longer with some now opening seven days a week, while even the great bastions of old-school Ireland – our libraries and our post offices – are bending to the will of the people and opening longer and longer.

Most libraries in the State will soon be open seven days a week from 8am and 10pm under plans to double the number of visitors over the next five years. The novel idea is that by extending the hours they are open users will have more chances to study, surf the web using free wifi and borrow books if the mood takes them. It will, in short, make libraries more relevant.

Post offices are also looking play a longer game and hours are set to be extended in the months and years ahead and more of them will be co-located with grocery, retail and convenience stores to give them a better chance to stay relevant in the brave new world.

Online retailing

In an open-all-hours world, the online retailing revolution has made things better – or worse, depending on your perspective. The web has allowed an always-time-to-buy mentality to grow among 21st-century consumers. Not even Christmas Day is safe. Last year, shoppers in the UK alone spent more than €1 billion on December 25th, with retailers registering more than €1 million in online sales every minute of that day as shoppers, unsated by pre-Christmas spending splurges, took to the web in search of what once were post-Christmas sales.

While Irish consumers are not as bad as their UK cousins, the numbers seeking to take advantage of online sales on Christmas Day are climbing, as are the numbers willing to flog unwanted gifts on eBay literally minutes after they get them.

But we are only getting started and, according to a piece of research published today by Barclays Bank Ireland, a generation of younger consumers appears desperate to have more places stay open longer so they can have more options to spend whatever money they have.

As the traditional nine-to-five working day becomes less and less common, the times at which people want to go to the pub, have a meal in a restaurant or work out at the gym are changing. This is hardly surprising when the numbers are crunched.

The hospitality and leisure research by Barclays Bank Ireland, entitled Open All Hours, found that nearly half of Irish workers work extended hours, part-time, flexibly or according to a shift pattern. One in four people say they work longer hours than their parents while a similar number say they are also facing a longer commute to the workplace than previous generations.

This trend is likely to accelerate further over the coming years with 49 per cent of people looking to move away from nine-to-five hours by increasing the number of hours they work, starting earlier and finishing earlier, starting later and finishing later, or by adopting a flexible working-day arrangement.

It suggests that people aged 18-34 are most frustrated that they cannot access hospitality services when they want, with 43 per cent of this “on demand” generation saying they expected 24-hour services, compared with just 16 per cent of the cohort in the 35-44 bracket. More than a third of workers aged 18-24 year said the reason behind their demand for out-of-hours services was due to long working hours, compared with 19 per cent of those aged 45-54.

Technology

While there are some options for Irish hospitality and leisure businesses looking to embrace the opportunities of this changing consumer demand, technology has been identified as a key enabler as it can reduce the need for a 24/7 workforce and make hospitality services more efficient and accessible.

Among gyms, cinemas and hotels, for example, just over 20 per cent of those polled said they would be more likely to use a service if it had an automated check-in/check-out procedure, while 32 per cent said the option of an easy-to-use booking platform would mean they would use hospitality services more often. Receiving notification on their mobile phone showing services based on their location also made one in five customers more likely to choose a service.

“Continuing shifts in work patterns represent an opportunity for businesses that are willing and able to adapt to the changing consumption needs of today’s workers,” says Brian Wallace of Barclays Bank Ireland. “Apart from recalibrating operating hours, companies that invest appropriately in technology, such as online reservation or check-in platforms, are likely to attract a new cohort of customers and boost their long-term competitiveness by catering to this growing consumer demand for agile living.”

He said that for many businesses changing behaviours “represent a significant challenge, heightened further by rising wage costs, labour supply shortages, rent increases and other operating costs, all set within the context of an incredibly competitive market. However, those that don’t adapt to this newly developing consumer demand risk being left behind and, in this ever-competitive environment, businesses need to weigh up the value of the long-term opportunity over the cost of the short-term investment.”

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