Every one of the retailers questioned for a C-Store survey said that trade in their stores was suffering as a result of the economic downturn.

Lesley Brown of Frankmarsh Stores in Barnstaple, Devon, said that they were having to work harder than ever for sales. “The change in consumer buying behaviour has been really noticeable,” she said. “It hasn’t helped that the slowdown has coincided with such terrible summer weather.”

Soft drinks and alcohol sales have been particularly hard hit this August as shoppers shied away from BBQs and other outdoor events.

Nisa retailer Kishor Patel added that consumers were also cutting back on indulgent products such as luxury ice creams, chocolates and biscuits and switching to standard or budget lines.

The slowdown in sales is also having an impact on the volume of orders being placed with suppliers. Figures from the CBI’s Distributive Trades Survey revealed that almost 60% of suppliers had experienced a worse than expected fall in orders in the past month. 

All retailers polled for 

C-Store’s survey confirmed they had been forced to increase the price of staples such as milk, butter, bread and eggs by almost 50% compared with last year.

“We have had no choice but to pass on the costs to shoppers,” said Bimal Patel of Londis Crouch End, Middlesex. 

Di Bell of Nettleton Stores in Wiltshire said that trips to the cash and carry were becoming a nightmare. “Products are more expensive on each visit, especially the basics. It’s made worse by the fact that all our bills are increasing, too.”

Office of National Statistics figures show that food prices in c-stores rose by 6% in July, the largest increase in one month since March 1992.

Retailer reactions

Nigel Dowdney, Earlham Shopper, Swainsthorpe, Norfolk:

“There has been a dramatic change in what shoppers are buying. I’m hardly selling any premium products at the moment, and have noticed shoppers moving to cheaper lines of wine and beer.”

Carey Lake, Redland Stores, Fareham, Hampshire: 

“We’ve noticed a real impact on our business. It’s a combination of the poor weather and the gloom of the credit crunch. We’re finding that people are buying more Best-in products rather than branded ones.”

Gordon Crump, Spar Compton, Wolverhampton:

“This has been the worst August on record for our business. There’s no doubt that the credit crunch is having a negative effect, and the past few weeks have been really dire.”