Sonic extends hours to make up for time lost to weather

Miserable winter weather has been cutting into Sonic's profits so far this year.

Photo credit: Reuters
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Sonic Automotive Inc. is extending store hours in parts of the country hit by severe winter weather in an effort to make up vehicle sales and service revenue lost during the storms.

The extended hours began Feb. 14 and will run through the end of the month in most of the company's East Coast markets, said Jeff Dyke, Sonic executive vice president of operations.

Stores in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and elsewhere are staying open later to try to meet customer demand and give employees the chance to make up ground lost during the weather disruptions.

"You're not going to make up all of it, but you'll make up some of it," Dyke told Automotive News. "Business the last few days has been really robust, so hopefully it keeps going throughout the end of the month and then we'll have a great big old bang-up March."

Dyke told analysts on Wednesday that store-level income will take a hit of $1.5 million to $2 million for January and February because of storm-related lost traffic. That would be an 8 percent decline on an earnings per share basis, he said. But executives said they hope to be able to make up much of that in March, which is historically a strong month for Sonic.

The extended hours vary according to market. Some stores that typically close at 8 p.m. are staying open until 10 p.m., Dyke said. Service shops that close at 4 p.m. on Saturdays are staying open until 8 p.m. And stores that are usually closed Sunday are staying open in areas that allow it. But those hours won't last into March, Dyke said.

"It just puts too much demand" on employees, he said. "You can't wear your people out."

You can reach Amy Wilson at awilson@crain.com.


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