Paul Cheema, Malcolm’s Store, Coventry
By reacting quickly to the hot weather and constantly adapting his offering, Paul and brother Pinda were able to boost sales dramatically.
Gregory Cochrane, Spar Binnian Fresh Foods, Kilkeel, Co Down, N. Ireland
Ice cream proved to be a massive sales driver at Spar Binnian with sales of the product up a whopping 400% in the warm weather.
Alpesh Patel, Londis, Crouch End
Alpesh is careful to multi-face products that he knows sell well in hot weather, such as fruit and veg, barbecue goods, and dips.
Mandeep Singh, three Singh’s Premier stores in Sheffield
Sales are booming at Singh’s Premiers thanks to Mandeep’s careful preparation, which includes moving ice-cream to the front of the store.
How has the recent heatwave affected your trade - has your weekly turnover increased?
Paul: We’ve seen a 12% increase in sales at Malcolm’s Store during good weather. Staffing costs go up, too, but we don’t mind when it’s returned in trade.
Gregory: We’ve seen a massive increase across the board. In one week we had a £23,000 increase. We are a holiday town, so that is also a factor, but the hot weather has definitely helped.
Alpesh: The weather has been great turnover is up between 10 and 15%. It’s a breath of fresh air.
Mandeep: Summer has been good. Even though there have been a lot of people from the area away on holiday, we’re up 16-17% overall.
How do you keep tabs on the weather?
Paul: We use the BBC weather five-day forecast to see what’s coming up. We plan for the whole week and if there’s hot weather we stock up on products we know will be popular.
Gregory: We get a weekly weather forecast and use our retail management system to plot our estimated sales. It helps to build a picture of how many staff we’ll need to achieve these sales.
Alpesh: We always check the weather forecast - I have an app on my phone and it’s also on the home page of the office computer.
Mandeep: I check the weather every morning on my phone. I try to look a few days ahead, but it changes so much you can’t really rely on it.
How important to your business is hot weather in general?
Paul: It’s very important. It changes everyone’s manner, not just customers, but staff as well - they’re buzzing.
Gregory: We have a good, strong business, but to really hit the big numbers the hot weather is needed.
Alpesh: It’s a relief - it feels that the recession is no longer there. Summers are always important, but when the weather chickens out, there’s nothing you can do. Having a heatwave wasn’t a lifesaver, but it was a nice bonus.
Mandeep: It’s massively important - we need this more often. We don’t get it enough.
How has the hot weather affected your customers’ attitudes to spending and their moods in general?
Paul: Customers don’t think about the recession when it’s sunny, they’re thinking about barbecues and social gatherings.
Gregory: It’s great - people don’t think about their spending as much. When people come to the three caravan parks near our store they’ll bring food with them, but if the weather is nice they’ll often stay longer and then they’ll shop with us. Holiday-makers are in holiday mode so they aren’t as price-conscious.
Alpesh: When the weather gets better people open up their hearts - and their wallets! There’s a lot more selling power - their minds are open to it and you have to make the most of it.
Mandeep: Everyone is a lot happier, including me! Customers don’t think about prices as much. They know that the sun won’t last for ever, so they want to make the most of it.
How have your suppliers responded to the hot weather?
Paul: Nisa made sure that everyone got their chilled deliveries. The only thing we were let down on was when our salad supplier forgot to deliver cucumbers!
Gregory: Brilliantly. Everything is supplied by Henderson Retail. We had area meetings earlier in the year to discuss the plan this summer. They’re definitely on the ball.
Alpesh: The manufacturers were prepared for it - our dips supplier was working flat out to keep up with demand. Londis delivered very well - they had lorries standing by for second deliveries.
Mandeep: Booker has been spot on. The storage space for frozen at our new Booker depot is really good. We get most of our ice cream from Booker as they are able to do daily deliveries. Premier also emails us, alerting us to stock up on ice cream and beer in the hot weather.
Which products have sold particularly well? Any surprises?
Paul: Barbecue meat, coleslaw, pre-packed salad and ice have all been popular.
Gregory: Sales of Brennan’s ice cream were up 400%. It’s been a massive footfall driver. We also have a butcher who owns a store in town and rents a butchery counter in-store and he was producing 2,000 burgers a day. Burgers and kebabs were real winners.
Alpesh: Soft drinks, salads, alcohol and fruit and veg all did well, as did dips such as hummus and taramasalata.
Mandeep: Fridge packs of drinks sold well multi-packs of Carling and Budweiser, Fosters and Strongbow did well. We also sold lots of Butchers Market peppered grilled steaks.
Are there any negatives to the hot weather and how do you overcome them?
Paul: Sometimes we run out of ice, but we just buy it from the local Iceland.
Gregory: We don’t really have any negatives to the hot weather. Our equipment has been fine and because we give staff ownership of different areas in-store, and tell them the sales figures for their department, we don’t have any absence issues as people want to hit their targets.
Alpesh: The only negatives are for retailers who aren’t prepared for the weather, who might have products stored at the wrong temperature.
How have you adapted your offering in order to maximise sales over this period?
Paul: When Wimbledon was on we promoted associated products, such as Evian, Robinsons, strawberries and cream, and had the matches on TV in store. We had about 16 people watching the final in here - it creates a buzz and shows you’re supporting a national event. By the third weekend of good weather, we had to question whether people were getting bored and so changed the promotional bay. We now have baskets of fruit at the front instead of our usual beer stacks.
Gregory: We decided to put bedding plants at the front of the store. Holidaymakers leave pot plants at their caravans and they die when they’re away so they want to buy more when they’re staying there. We gave a local supplier the space and let him range it. It’s done really well so far - we hit £1,000 in a week.
Alpesh: We always make sure that we display products in the right place at the right price, so at the moment we’ll have fewer ready meal facings and more dips and barbecue products.
Mandeep: We’ve switched our ice cream with our £1 bay so that ice cream is at the front of the store. Also, we’ve cut down on milk a little in our store room chillers and given the space to cases of beer so that they’re cool when we put them out. Promotions on take home and impulse pop did well, such as two Red Bulls for £2 and Jack Daniels & Cola at two for £4.
What is the key to capitalising on the hot weather?
Paul: The hot weather is great, but as a retailer you have to look at how you can benefit by looking ahead at the forecast and making sure you have enough barbecue products, rolls, condiments and salads.
Gregory: Good people, department ownership, and planning ahead. You should have the first conversations about the summer weather in March and review the situation with department heads on a daily basis.
Alpesh: You need to have the right amount of refrigeration and ranges that will sell in the hot weather. Air con is also a must. You need to ensure your products are stored at the right temperature and that this is maintained throughout the supply chain.
Mandeep: Make sure you are ready for it. Download a weather app and look at the core range you’ll need that day - water, beers, ice pops and so on. You’ve got to be 100% on top of your ice cream. It’s no good telling customers ‘I’ll get it tomorrow’ - it might be snowing tomorrow!
The C-Store Champions are a group of experienced retailers who understand the central role of the local store in their community. They are tuned into the demands and desires of their customers, and believe in continual development of their businesses. Each month we ask a few of the Champions to share their experience and expertise with other retailers.
Wanted: independent champions
Are you an experienced retailer and willing to share your knowledge? Call Sarah Britton on 01293 610220 if you’re Champion material.