The director of Downtown Lawrence Inc. said when it comes to downtown stores there is a clear perception among shoppers — later would be greater.
“The single biggest issue I hear about from the public is store hours,” said Cathy Hamilton, director of Downtown Lawrence Inc. “Nobody thinks we’re open long enough. Let’s put it that way.”
Downtown Lawrence leaders hosted a Tuesday afternoon meeting for about 25 downtown merchants to discuss the idea of how to better accommodate Lawrence residents who have trouble making it to downtown during store hours.
Merchants, though, were split on whether later hours were the answer.
“I can tell you that Thursday nights have become a less and less significant part of our business,” Earl Reineman of Weaver’s Department Store said of the later hours kept by the store one night per week. “That gives us pause when considering more nights.”
But other retailers said they think downtown is missing out on sales by not having more stores open until at least 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. on most nights.
Misty Curry, a manager with Kansas Sampler, said her store has stayed open until 9 p.m. since it opened one year ago. She said for the store’s first six months of business sales after 6 p.m. accounted for only about 10 percent of its totals. But now, sales after 6 p.m. account for about 33 percent of revenues.
“We are finally getting people to understand that we’re open late,” Curry said. “I think it would be even better if more stores were open.”
Downtown Lawrence Inc. leaders asked the merchants in attendance to consider staying open later at least three nights per week — Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Merchants were asked to consider staying open until 7 p.m. or 8 p.m.
“I think most people are willing to consider some changes in the hours, an extension of some kind,” Hamilton said.
But Hamilton said the next step will be for Downtown Lawrence Inc. to send out more information to all its members and then poll merchants about their willingness to change hours.
Downtown Lawrence Inc. can ask members to change their hours but doesn’t have any ability to force members to maintain certain hours.
“I think there is a definite perception out there that we need to combat,” Hamilton said. “I just want to hear if there is anything we can do about it.”