Convenience stores enjoyed an early Christmas present last week as freezing conditions and heavy snowfall sparked a sales rush, with many retailers reporting double-digit increases.

Cancelled deliveries meant that in many areas demand for essential items such as milk and bread outstripped supply, prompting innovative thinking from retailers.

In Seasalter, Kent, Spar retailer Paul Hudson was without a bread delivery for two days as lorries failed to plough through the snow. "Fortunately, we have the bake-off so I've been frantically busy, cooking up fresh supplies myself," he said. And when he wasn't busy baking Paul was out delivering goods to the local elderly people who were unable to venture out on icy footpaths.

Russell Holborn, from Holborn's in South Nutfield, Surrey, commandeered a couple of Land Rovers to drive out to cash and carries to stock up, as most of his deliveries had also been cancelled. "We had no bread or papers, and the Country Choice consignments couldn't make it to us either. There was a great atmosphere in the store, though everyone pulled together to get the job done," he said.

Anticipating the adverse weather, Londis retailer Ashok Shah of Coulsdon in Surrey had trebled his order of bread and milk, but due to cancelled deliveries none of it arrived. "It would have flown out the door, so I have lost out," he said. Sales were still up 7%, however, as people stocked up on salt for their footpaths, and alcohol.

In Selby, North Yorkshire, Chris Pollard of Barlby Village Stores reported a sales increase of 10% as the "whole village fed off the store".

Saqib Ghafoor, from Nisa 8 Till 10 in Gateshead, was also smiling after having stockpiled a large amount of emergency supplies. "I learnt my lesson from last year and we have enough stock to last for a week or so," he added.

And in Hastings, East Sussex, Dave Newman of Westhill Stores could barely keep up with the sales rush.

"I've never had such a busy morning. At one point there were more than 30 people in the store. It was like a madhouse, but fantastic for trade!" he added.

Read more
Stores warned to get set for snow (15 October 2010)