Dan Cock
Whitstone Stores, Holsworthy, Devon
Always open to new ideas, Dan is already ahead of the pack with a regularly updated Facebook page and website for the store.

Atul Sodha
Peverells, Uxbridge, Middlesex
Atul is a keen supporter of fresh produce and his involvement with British Food Fortnight has ensured that his store gains plenty of positive media coverage.

Sylvia Winter
Creaton Post Office, Creaton, Northamptonshire
Excellent customer service and an impressive range of local produce have seen Sylvia Winter and husband David’s store growing stronger.

Simon Biddle
Biddles Convenience Store, Redditch, Worcestershire
Simon has the locals flocking to his store, thanks to his home-made pies, cakes and sandwiches, which give him a strong point of difference.

Do you view spring events as a big sales opportunity? 

: Easter is good for us because people shop more in the bank holidays, but I’m amazed at how cheaply the supermarkets sell their Easter eggs. It’s always worth stocking up on ingredients for Pancake Day.

Sylvia: Yes, we always make an effort to celebrate spring events, particularly Valentine’s Day.

Atul: If we’re going to get some trade out of the downturn, then we need special occasions to stimulate sales.

Dan: There is an opportunity, but you need to have a well-managed range for each event.

Do you expect this year to be better or worse than last?

: I wouldn’t like to guess. In some ways I’ve seen people become more careful with their money this year, but there are other factors that come into play, such as whether people choose to shop local instead of going to a supermarket.

Sylvia: It probably won’t be as good as last year all the independent retailers I’ve spoken to seem to be pretty quiet. There’s now a bus that takes pensioners to the Tesco in town, which is affecting trade.

Atul: I think this year will be worse, and it will be dominated by promotions. The people who are brave enough to stock up on novelty products that need to be sold within a set timeframe will be the winners.

Dan: The impression I got last year was that people were a bit egged out over Easter I don’t know that they’ll be spending as much on them this year. Easter eggs are a non-essential purchase, after all.

Is there a good market for traditional eggs, or do you focus on other items?

: No, the market for traditional eggs is mainly for supermarkets. Indies need to look beyond shell eggs.

Sylvia: We tend to be a last-minute distress purchase three or four days before Easter, so we do stock a few traditional eggs.

Atul: They only really sell at the last minute. I’ll make a minimal pre-order of traditional eggs, and then I’ll be looking for quirky stuff that I can buy on deal.

Dan: People are very conscious of the additional packaging an Easter egg requires and I think the novelty is wearing off. We’ll be proceeding with caution.

When do you start planning these events and when do you start displaying products in-store?

: My main spring seller is flowers, so I don’t really need to prepare too far in advance for them because they have a short shelf life. It just depends on what price my importer is selling them at as to how much I buy. With Pancake Day I’ll have ‘don’t forget’ signs up about 10 days before which I’ve made on the computer. With Easter, we’ll get our Cadbury Crème Eggs in at the end of January, and at the end of February we’ll introduce a few shell eggs.

Sylvia: With Valentine’s Day I took down our Christmas window display and replaced it with a Valentine’s theme we’ve got a pair of lovebirds and lots of felt hearts! We also have self-eat Easter products on-shelf in January. Even then, the Mars MaltEaster Bunnies were flying out the door.

Atul: We placed our Easter order in October and we’ve had Cadbury’s Crème Eggs and Caramel Eggs on display since January. The larger products will be allocated this month and I’ll put some out immediately. Valentine’s Day chocolates and cards go on display in the first week of January.

Dan: We usually let the suppliers lead us on when to start displaying products. We’ve had Cadbury Crème Eggs and Mini Eggs out on shelf since January and they’ve been flying out the door. When it comes to Valentine’s Day and Mothers’ Day we seem to be getting more and more last-minute purchases, so we need to ensure that we’re well stocked on the days themselves, as well as beforehand.

What are your best-sellers during these events?

: Flowers are always best- sellers around springtime the kids like to buy them for their mums. Cadbury Crème Eggs are another top seller.

Sylvia: Mars MaltEaster Bunnies and Lindt bunnies do really well over Easter. And on Valentine’s Day Guylian heart-shaped chocolates are a strong seller.

Atul: Easter eggs and flowers are the main sellers in our store.

Dan: Crème Eggs and flowers always go really well. We’re running Thornton’s chocolates on promotion, so I expect they’ll be a winner.

What sales techniques do you adopt around this time of year in order to take advantage of spring occasions?

: On Pancake Day we’ll run a link deal on the batter mix, eggs and lemon juice. We also double up the flowers for special occasions to make more of a visual impact.

Sylvia: We’ll tease any men that come in on Valentine’s Day that they should be buying a rose for their other halves. I used to work in exhibitions so I’m used to chatting to people and reading their body language.

Atul: I make sure I cross-promote chocolates and flowers to maximise sales.

Dan: We’ll take photos of our in-store display and put them on our Facebook site to get people interested. We also up-sell goods to customers, for example, if gents come in on Valentine’s Day we’ll talk them into buying a box of chocolates.

What new lines are you introducing this year that you expect to do well?

: I haven’t thought about new lines yet, but if I see a good deal I’ll pick it up. Anything new sells well first time round.

Sylvia: I haven’t seen the key confectionery reps yet, but when I do I’ll be looking to pick up any new launches.

Atul: I’ll be buying in cava for customers to drink at get-togethers over Easter. I think people will be trading down from Champagne.

Dan: I’ve recently bought a cake stand and started baking cookies in store. They’re selling really well, so I might look at branding them up for different occasions.

How do you deal with event-specific products that haven’t sold?

: Touch wood, it’s only pancake mix that I’ve ever had to worry about, and if it doesn’t sell before Pancake Day I’ll reduce it to half-price.

Sylvia: We just take a hit and mark it as wastage. Out-of-date products on the shelves can give people a bad impression; it makes people think the product is past its sell-by date. I think it makes people question the overall quality of your produce, too.

Atul: We’ve sold more pancake mix in the past two years than we ever used to we never have any left over. With other products, you need to get rid of them by selling at a reduced price after the event. If you just throw them away you’re throwing money away. You have to accept that there will be some products left after certain events if there aren’t then you probably haven’t stocked enough to meet demand.

Dan: There are always distress purchasers here on Easter Sunday so you can usually sell plenty then. If I have a lot of stock left I’ll probably start selling it off at a discount halfway through the day.