Sales failed to make the mercury rise this summer.

Summer 2005 was nothing short of a disappointment for most c-store retailers, according to a survey carried out for Convenience Store.

The survey found that 73% of independent retailers questioned saw summer trading this year either drop or stay the same compared with the summer of 2004. But 31% still see the summer season as the most important time of year for their business, and 59% feel it is equally as important as other key trading seasons.
Sales of traditional summer non-food goods such as barbecues, sun cream and beach toys failed to make much of a mark; only 16% of retailers saw an increase, and most reported flat sales of such products.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The soft drinks category performed well, and half of all respondents said that the category showed the biggest growth in their stores this summer.

The greatest pressure on c-stores this summer was competition from the multiples, closely followed by the challenge of keeping products cool during warmer spells of weather. A generally quiet summer was the biggest problem for 8% of respondents, and 6% said staffing caused the greatest headache.

Unsurprisingly, most respondents said the supermarkets were more aggressive this summer. In fact, only 6% thought they were less aggressive. And while 40% couldn’t pinpoint one category that the multiples were particularly aggressive in, it seems that heavy discounting on alcohol proved a big bugbear, and 26% found the supermarkets most aggressive in this category.

How did summer 2005 trading compare with 2004?

Stayed the same 39%
Down 34%
Up 27%

How important is the summer season to your business?

Quite important, but no more than other times of the year 59%
The most important time 31%
Not particularly important 7%
Not important at all 3%

How has the importance of summer changed in recent years?

Stayed the same 68%
More important 21%
Less important 11%

Which food/drink category showed the biggest growth?

Soft drinks 50%
Alcohol 17%
Nothing 14%
Other 7%
Ice cream 5%
Don’t know 4%
Chilled and fresh 3%

Which food/drink category showed the biggest decline?

Nothing 30%
Grocery 21%
Other 14%
Confectionery 9%
Don’t know 8%
Soft drinks 7%
Alcohol 5%
Ice cream 3%
Everything 3%

Did sales of non food goods increase or decrease compared with last year?

Stayed the same 60%
Decreased 24%
Increased 16%

What was the greatest pressure on business during the summer?

Nothing 38%
Increased competition 10%
Other 10%
Keeping products cool 9%
Lack of custom 8%
Staffing 6%
Don’t know 6%
Weather 5%
Parking/roadworks 4%
Red tape 3%
Crime 1%

Did your staffing costs increase over the summer?

No 77%
Yes 23%

How aggressive did you find the supermarkets this summer?

More aggressive than in 2004 49%
Equally as aggressive 45%
Less aggressive than in 2004 6%

Which categories were the supermarkets most aggressive in?

Everything 40%
Alcohol 26%
Nothing 15%
Don’t Know 8%
Other 6%
Soft drinks 4%
Not a problem 1%