The store looks very Christmassy at the moment. We’ve had tinsel and lights up since mid-November, and had Christmas stock on display since the third week in September.
People have been buying little and often on a daily basis. Wrapping paper has been selling steadily, as have Christmas cards. We have a dedicated seasonal bay with mince pies, and caddy tins with peanuts and Jacob’s Crackers, plus we’ve got really good promotions on. Our advent calendars did really well. They work out at about £1.89 each, or two for £2, so most people have been buying them in pairs. We also have Quality Street and Roses tins for a fiver, large boxes of Milk Tray half-price at £4, and some good BOGOFs, too. It means we’re able to compete with the Waitrose nearby.
The students in the area generally go home at Christmas, so we have to be smart to ensure there is surplus funding to cope. But I don’t think sales will dip too much as there are quite a few hospitals in the area, so visitors will be buying presents and staff will be organising parties. Also, I’m not sure that the foreign students will go home for Christmas, as some of them may not actually celebrate it.
It’s not just Christmas stock that is performing well. My Kepak microwave is now up and running and doing very well. It is situated opposite the Rustlers burgers display, so people are making the connection and it is boosting sales. If retailers have room for it, it’s a must. I’m also planning to extend my food-to-go offering. I’ve been speaking to Ginsters and they’re willing to supply me with a narrow chiller, with lots of pricemarked goods.
The only real concern I have at the moment is that I have heard rumours that Sainsbury’s is interested in the area. I won’t worry if it’s a big store as that won’t compete with me. But if a Sainsbury’s Local is on the cards it will be a direct threat, particularly as it will open on Sundays. The only thing I can do if that happens is to consider opening 24 hours.
You have to be thinking ahead and putting plans in place when faced with these issues you can’t just sit back and wish it away. If it does happen, then at least I’m geared up for it.
On a more positive note, our building has now had the go-ahead for 30 teachers and 150 students to set up a college above the shop in the New Year, which is something to look forward to.