Brenda and Henry Brewer have a lot more time on their hands.
The couple, who owns Brewer Tire Co. in Winston-Salem, decided about a month ago to stop offering Saturday hours in a move that Ms. Brewer guesses is the secret desire of many tire dealers. The shop never held Sunday hours since Mr. Brewer's parents founded it in 1959.
``It's like having a real job,'' she said, laughing.
She said they scrapped their 8 a.m. to noon hours on Saturday because sales didn't make up for the overhead spent in keeping the shop open. Some weeks were busy and others were bust-but either way electricity and technician wages were due.
``It averages out to not be a good financial decision'' to stay open, Ms. Brewer told Tire Business.
At the same time, the couple wanted to reserve the weekends for other things in life.
``We have families, and as much as we'd like to be among the rich and famous, family is more important to us,'' she said.
Interestingly, the move seemed to weed out the single-outlet dealership's loyal customers from the flock. Ms. Brewer said when she told longtime customers of the change, they shrugged it off and decided to come in on a Thursday or Friday. The customers who were unhappy about the change tended to be new customers who had no problem going to a chain instead, she said.
``I think (tire dealers) would find out that the public...understands that better,'' she said of the desire to spend more time with family. ``If someone raises Cain with you, it's probably someone you didn't want anyway.''
Lee Jackson Jr., owner of Jackson Auto Worx Inc. in downtown Winston-Salem, said he often wishes he could abandon his 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday hours. ``Probably every Saturday'' it crosses his mind, he joked.
Saturday sales usually break even with their costs, but the extra payoff comes from maintaining customer relations and promoting more business during the week. Mr. Jackson said he has three technicians work Saturdays compared with five during the week, and they won't perform diagnostics or drive-related repairs on Saturday.
``With society the way it is, convenience is the most important thing to people now,'' he said. ``I do think (cutting Saturday hours) will hurt my business, and that's the thing that keeps me from doing it.''
Mr. Jackson, who has owned the shop for almost four years, said his customers have come to expect the shop to offer Saturday hours. Before owning the shop, he worked at a service station, where his schedule was even more grueling, working seven days a week for the lion's share of the day.
Albert Schindler, a retail and customer service expert at Schindler Promotions Ltd. in Canada, said convenience and reliable service are essential to keep customers. In most retail environments, decisions should address what's best for the company's bottom line as well as for the customer.
``Although customer loyalty is not dead, customer loyalty must be very carefully nurtured with an honest attempt to cater to a customer's needs,'' he said.
Ms. Brewer said many of her customers aren't inconvenienced because they've already left their cars at the shop while they were at work. She said the shop also is willing to extend its weeknight hours for anyone in a jam.
But the key, she said, is that customers are willing to adjust because they trust the shop. Customers who just happened to open the phone book to the Bs have other options in the area.
``Most of (Brewer Tire's customers) don't trust them,'' she said of national chains. ``...So they'll make other arrangements.''
This scenario didn't just happen overnight, she said. Brewer Tire has a history of attracting loyal customers, and many of its current clients are children of those served by the first generation. Ms. Brewer said loyal customers come from honesty and treating people with respect.
``There's too much business out there to get it dishonestly, and people know that,'' she said.