Never on Saturday or Sunday

CHRONICLE / Impossible to buy croissants, breads, pretzels or lemon tarts at Jeff Le Boulanger on weekends. The business is closed. For family reasons, it only opens from Tuesday to Friday. And there is no shortage of customers. “My market share and my turnover are increasing,” says Jean-François Dinelle, the owner.
If the pandemic has forced merchants to review the opening hours of their businesses. The baker on Charles-Rodrigue Street in Lévis has settled this issue for five years.

It’s the weekend off for him and his team of about 20 employees. “It’s three days off for some. It helps to keep the staff. ”

Obviously, customers would like to be able to go to his bakery on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s nice to plan for shopping on Fridays, but if some friends show up unexpectedly at home. That would be so convenient and good to be able to get your hands on your challah burgers, fougasse or chocolate and pear pies.

Better to have a plan B because the baker Dinelle does not intend to deviate from the schedule he has established.

He announces his colors at the door of his business. “Open Tuesday to Friday from 7 am to 6 pm. Saturday and Sunday closed for rest with family time. This since 2015. Warning: The grumpy cannot enter ”. He also says he takes phone Internet orders on Monday.

When he opens his complaints office on Facebook, people ask him why he closes on the weekend.

“I explain to them. I don’t want to please everyone. I am in mourning for some clients ”. The baker from Levis does not want to sell his products in other shops either.

Consumers tell him he could hire staff to take over on the weekends. “If an employee doesn’t come in, I’ll have to come in to do the job.” Time with family and rest would suffer. He refuses to take this risk.

The merchant does not fully embrace the rule that the customer is always right. He says he thinks of himself and his people first.

At 23, he already had a bakery in Old Lévis, La Bouchée de pain. “I worked over 100 hours a week.” It was untenable.

When he started up Jeff the Baker, he avoided doing the same pattern, the same rhythm. His girlfriend wouldn’t have accepted. “I have a daughter, a blonde. And I’m 45 years old. Strength and physical endurance are not the same. “

That does not prevent him from working more than 60 hours a week. “I was put on earth to be a baker.”

How easy is this reduced work schedule?

Not really. “We are doomed to excellence. It takes exclusive and extraordinary products and exceptional customer service. You have to be on the boat to attract and retain customers. ”

There are no bakeries and pastry shops on every street corner in Lévis. It is thus undoubtedly easier for Mr. Dinelle to make accept his atypical schedule to the customers.

He admits that the dynamics could change if The Bread Box sets up a branch near his business. The loyalty of its customers would then be put to the test.

Some have adapted and cope very well with Jeff The Baker’s hours of operation and understand. That the owner preserves his family life and that of his employees. Others, however, would like to be able to purchase its products seven days a week.

The dilemma exists in other areas of retail.

At the start of the pandemic, Quebec imposed the closure of stores on Sunday. This constraint was lifted in May. The Quebec Retail Council wanted to know in July if its members were considering closing on Sunday. “Mostly, they want to keep their doors open that day. In six months, a year, we will see ”, indicates the Director General of the Council, Stéphane Drouin.

“For the moment, they are trying to make up for lost sales during containment.” He notes that traders are more concerned with opening hours on Mondays and Tuesdays.

When people are at home, he says, they can live with the closing of businesses on weekends. “When they return to work, however, they like to find this shopping beach again.” Mr. Drouin adds that closing businesses on Sundays is easier in the regions or in the absence of competitors.

The pandemic is disrupting retailing and consumer habits. “There are a lot of uncertainties. We don’t know how things are going to be for the holiday season ”.

Will online commerce continue to grow?

Will it be easier to recruit staff when the payment of the PCU stops? Will shopping become even less popular if sanitary measures and the wearing of masks are maintained? Being in a queue is more bearable in the summer than in November in freezing rain.

Another element that keeps traders on the alert is economic uncertainty. If people don’t have jobs or emergency benefits. They will consume less. Regardless of the length of opening hours.