Convenience stores have been hailed as the “fifth emergency service” as they battled against the recent adverse weather conditions to supply stranded locals with groceries and good cheer.

With roads barred by the worst snowfalls in half a century, local shops across Britain became lifelines for consumers, and traders saw their sales jump by up to 80%.

Retailers used vans, ski-mobiles and, in one case, even a helicopter to ensure that supplies reached stores and shoppers. 

Speaking on the BBC News Channel, James Lowman of the Association of Convenience Stores said: “It’s important to remember that in conditions like these convenience stores are much more than just a convenience; they’re an integral part of the communities they serve.”

Alun Evans of the Almondsbury community shop in Bristol said that sales in the store had rocketed by 60% thanks to volunteer workers who trudged through deep snow to get to the store. 

“This is a community shop and the whole point of opening it was to help the residents, so that’s what we’ve been doing,” he said.
Spar retailers Simon Harrison and Julie Keenan made a series of journeys in 4x4 vehicles to collect supplies for their store in Cornwall, after suppliers were unable to reach them.

Dan Cock of Whitstone Stores in Devon said he had turned to the local baker to meet his customers’ needs after his national bread supplier failed to get through. 

Retailers reported big sales increases in more unlikely product areas, too. Cat litter was in demand as it was used as an alternative to salt for gritting paths and driveways. 

Budgens retailer Keith Morley from Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire, said panic buying had left his shelves stripped bare. “There were nearly twice as many people in the store as usual and most were on foot,” he said. 

The big freeze was not such good news for the supermarket industry. Tesco reported nearly £250m in lost sales during the severe winter weather as people chose to use their neighbourhood stores rather than brave the treacherous roads.