OPINION: Seasonal sales are coming: being more optimistic about the winter period – Amit Puntambekar, Ash’s Shop, Fenstanton, Cambridgeshire

Soft drinks and ice cream have been carrying our sales a bit harder, because last year the weather wasn’t as strong

Winter snow seasonal sales

Sales have been quite strong for us these past few months – the weather has helped quite a bit with that. I don’t think total sales have increased in line with inflation, but we’re about 8-10% up on this time last year.

We’re keeping an eye on not just total sales by volume, but by individual units. That’s going to give me an indication of whether or not consumers are buying the same amount of stock, which is a bigger indication of how they’re spending. We’re also keeping an eye on the average basket spend, which seems to be quite positive. It’s gone up this year and we’ve sold more stock overall.

Soft drinks and ice cream have been carrying our sales a bit harder, because last year the weather wasn’t as strong, and going into August and September it was much milder than this year.

At the moment, when I send an order to my main supplier, I immediately know 10% of it isn’t available. Normally, we would start using our different wholesale options, but we had a bit of staff churn at the start of summer and have been recruiting slowly. I don’t believe in mass recruitment because you don’t get the skillsets for our standards. We’re now back to full strength with four new people, and I’ve set aside 200-250 hours of my time to get them up to scratch. We’ve been focused on getting the base level of work done, keeping the shop faced up, merchandised and making sure sales are where they are.

In my previous column, I spoke about Q4 this year and Q1 next year being potentially quite difficult. However, I think the World Cup and Christmas are going to help sales in our sector, even though Q1 could be quite depressed compared to previous years. I know for us, the spring and summer seasons are our strongest, and we don’t really get a seasonal boost at Christmas. But I think the World Cup will help in that respect with regards to beer, wine, spirits and snacking.

I was very concerned about many convenience stores because a lot of spend in them is discretionary or surplus disposable income, but I think the price cap will enable consumers to be a bit looser with their finances than they would have been previously. It gives them more long-term confidence about how much they can spend, and they can budget to a worst-case scenario. They know how much to put away for things like rent and fuel. That’s going to give them a lot more security around November and December when things might get tougher.

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