I'd like to respond to a letter in last week's Wheels, where a reader wanted to know why new-car dealers are closed on Sundays.
In the GTA, new-car dealerships are open from Monday to Saturday and closed on Sundays. Sunday closings have been a dealership tradition in Toronto for decades.
Prior to the 1990s, the Retail Business Holiday Act required dealerships and other retail stores to close on Sundays.
The former Ontario government under Bob Rae allowed municipalities the option of opening retail stores on Sundays and public holidays, provided that public hearings took place, and that laws were passed identifying the retail stores that could open.
The Toronto Automobile Dealers' Association (TADA) has a policy that recommends that new-car dealers remain closed on Sundays.
Dealers favour Sunday closings for several reasons. It means reduced overhead costs for dealerships (hydro, wages, insurance, etc.), which means that they can invest those resources in other areas.
It's easier to recruit and maintain staff with the promise of another day off a week. Having Sundays off is an advantage for dealership staff, who often work long hours from Monday to Saturday.
Currently, many Toronto car dealers offer flexible hours of operation, from Monday to Saturday. Some dealers close their parts and service departments on Saturdays, while others keep these departments open late on specific week nights to accommodate customers.
In my opinion, dealership staff and management deserve a day of rest each week; maintaining a healthy work-life balance is tough enough in the retail car industry, without adding another work day into the mix.
Some may argue that other retail operations, such as grocery chains and department stores, accommodate seven-day work schedules â€“ why can't dealers? The six-day work week has served our industry well for decades; car dealers do not want a change at this time.
Besides, there is no outcry from consumers for dealers to stay open on Sundays. Would consumers buy cars on Sundays if they were given the option? Yes. Would they buy more cars if we were open on Sundays? No.
Over the years, I've spoken with hundreds of customers about their car-buying experiences. I can't recall a single person saying that he wished we were open an extra day. In fact, many customers enjoy browsing and window-shopping on Sundays, without any dealership staff present.
Many dealers invite shoppers to visit their car lots on Sundays with "silent sales," posting vehicle features and special pricing on car windshields. Shoppers can inspect vehicles up close, and linger for as long as they want without feeling pressured.
Sunday openings have been tried before. In the spring of 2007, a new car dealership in Montreal bucked a decades-long tradition in that city by opening its doors on Saturdays and Sundays.
Prior to that, new-car dealerships in Quebec had not been opened on weekends since the early 1970s. The Montreal Automobile Dealers Corp. prohibits new-car dealerships from opening on weekends.
The dealership that ignored the ban kept its doors open on weekends for about 18 months. In October 2008, it reverted back to closing on weekends.
Is it only a matter of time before car dealerships open their doors on Sundays across the GTA? Never is a long time, but at the moment, it's not an issue among GTA dealers or the public.
The winds of change may one day convince dealers to open on Sundays. In the meantime, however, dealerships and their customers enjoy the status quo.
This column represents the views of TADA. Email [email protected] or visit tada.ca
Bob Attrell, president of the Toronto Automobile Dealers' Association, is a new car dealer in the GTA
Sundays are closed for good reason
Why don't dealers open on Sundays?