There is no doubt that Christmas is a great opportunity for convenience stores, but from a bottom line point of view it’s important rather than being absolutely crucial.
In reality, there are lots of sales opportunities for retailers over the year – Easter, summer barbecues, Halloween – but there is only so much spend around, so what you gain one day you often lose the next. While your sales go up so do your staffing costs. Your margins usually suffer, too, as you are competing with the supermarkets, so how well you do at Christmas often depends on what day of the week it falls and whether the big stores are open.
But we really do believe we have a great opportunity locally, so we will be open from 9am-6pm on Christmas Day with just a skeleton staff, family only, and we expect to be busy. We obviously won’t have deliveries to deal with; the focus will be entirely on service and creating a good atmosphere in the shop.
Christmas sales for us begin in October, starting with cards and confectionery, but the dynamic is different this year because we have the post office in store for the first time. We know we will get a footfall increase, but the challenge is to convert that into more sales in the shop. We’ll have more staff on to manage the queues and the checkouts, to meet and greet the customers and also to hand out samples of food and wine, plus tea and coffee. We’ll also be selling basic PO items such as stamps at the shop checkout so we will hopefully make the customer journey as smooth and pleasurable as possible.
The new Post Office counter was a big part of the major redevelopment we carried out in April, and by and large everything has worked out. It’s been challenging but we’ve had a tremendous response to the new store, but the one thing I didn’t really anticipate was how much of the work is ongoing. It hasn’t been a case of finishing the store and sitting back, rather it’s been like the start of a new journey as I feel there is so much more we can do – I believe we can get another 20% on our sales.
But retail is like that, it’s a constant process and I love it, and I still believe that if you have the right attitude it is a wonderful place to be.