How night shops survive the night

New competitors, covid measures that mostly strike nightlife and changing society. These are some of the things that night shops face while trying to keep their business alive.

The covid measures the government took the last two years, hit the night shops hard. Night shops stay open longer to provide groceries while regular stores are closed. Rhaman (42) is the owner of De Schans tabak- & avondwinkel. He doesn’t think the loss in customers came from competitors like speed delivery services, but from the measures: “Covid made it very hard to keep this store running. Due to closures by the government, I was not able to afford staff. I run the store on my own now.” 

Rhaman continues: “It’s not all measures but also that people have less money to spend. I can trade money to different currencies and people would come into the store to send money to their family abroad. Currently, people simply can’t afford to help their families abroad.” Rahman’s store is located fairly close to Leidseplein, a square known for its nightclubs. “A big part of my customers are people that pass by with their bike and need another drink before going to the club or the bar. During the pandemic this group has been severely decreased,” Rahman says.

Stay special in your own way

Rob Sterk (53) is the owner of Sterk Amsterdam, a store located in Amsterdam-West. Rob is an optimistic and down to earth Amsterdammer. After hard times, Rob feels positive about the future. “Of course every store had a hard time during the lockdowns. But if you stay special and stand out from the rest, you will survive,” Rob says. Sterk Amsterdam used to be a night store when it started in the 1950s. Around 2000, the store turned into a speciality and delicacies shop. “We were one of the first to start as a night shop. We were open at the times that supermarkets were closed. At first, we were open until six in the morning, now we close at 1 am,” Rob says.

“Society is changing, and the way of getting customers into your store changes with it,” he says. Rob’s vision on being successful with your store in this society, is standing out from the rest and doing extras for the customers. The quality of his store is the wide variety in products. Rob is always searching for new products for his store. “I look all over the internet to find new trends and even unknown products, but occasionally people walk into the store. They show their new product and ask me if I would like to sell it,” he says. “The connection with the neighbourhood makes this possible,” Rob continues.

Mass against variety

Speed delivery services like Gorilla’s and Flink are new competitors for the night shops. A person can order their groceries and have them delivered in fifteen minutes. “We can’t compete with these companies in the field of convenience and price. They can buy in masses and get huge discounts this way. If we order something, sometimes we get a cheaper offer, but it is not something we can count on,” Rob says.

There is another factor that makes the speed delivery services successful, according to Dr Walther Ploos van Amstel, lecturer in city logistics at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. “These services are champions in collecting data. Customers get personal discounts, this data gets collected by previous orders. With this tactic they can go as low as possible with their prices,” he says.

Rhaman can’t have special products in his store. The store is small and mainly focused on drinks and tobacco. He would have to make investments to change, but it doesn’t look that it is possible to do so at this moment. “I can’t afford personnel, and due to the lack of customers, it is more affordable to close my doors at 8 pm than at 12 pm. There is nothing I can do at this point,” Rahman says.

Tough environment

With the new competitors, a changing society and the covid measures that won’t disappear in the foreseeable future, it is clear that night shops have to adjust. It doesn’t mean blindly following popular trends, but there is also a possibility to be creative and find your special way of running your business. Unfortunately, not everyone can make these changes.