Convenience stores have risen to the challenge during the hottest June weather in more than 40 years despite refrigeration challenges and potential out-of-stocks.
While chillers in stores across the country struggled in the heat, independents C-Store spoke to were able to respond more quickly than the multiple competition when it came to availability of summer-related stock and coping with the inevitable equipment breakdowns.
Londis in Bridgwater, Somerset, owned by Steve Bassett, suffered a fridge breakdown but managed to remerchandise the food it contained to other units.
“I have a beer cave – a walk-in chiller full of beer – so we moved a trolley in there and sold soft drinks in the beer cave,” said Steve. “It cost me to fix the fridge but it would have cost me sales if I had not been able to move them.”
Steve had the foresight to keep more ice than he would normally sell which paid dividends when a pub landlord ran out and bought a dozen bags from his Southampton Londis.
“It’s one of the products that can have the highest variation in sales so we keep extra,” he said.
Costcutter in Forest Road, Leicester, made the most of the opportunities that outdoor living presents in a heatwave, with disposable cutlery and crockery, tableware and garden toys.
Owner Jagbir Athwal said: “We can respond in ways that supermarkets cannot do so quickly.”
He enjoyed strong sales on barbecue skewers, ice-packs, tennis balls, paper napkins, children’s bubbles and water pistols.
The biggest challenge was getting stock when he wanted it because of Costcutter’s set delivery days, but he sourced locally to plug the gap. “With summer, you blink and you miss it.”
His biggest challenge was frozen storage because “we can’t store as much as we can sell”, he said.
Jagbir brought in an extra freezer in the back room this year to help with ice creams and other products and he put some of his 50p chocolate bars in the fridge.
James Brundle, co-founder of Eat 17, said getting enough stock in, and space were challenges, as were refrigerator breakdowns which required engineers to be called out.
The Barns Green Village Store, in Horsham, West Sussex, said people did not want to cook in the heat so frozen pizzas and ready meals performed particularly well.
Co-owner David Heritage said the large campsite near to the shop went through “shedloads” of the store’s ice, and suntan lotions sold out.
C-Store asked the retailers it spoke to for their hot heatwave tips. They include:
- Be organised and have stock ready by planning early
- Look for big opportunities for cross-selling, such as sauces and move them to front of store
- Ensure availability on all key lines, such as sausages, ice and vanilla ice cream
- Keep an eye on weather trends
- Stock more ice than you can sell
- Ensure fridge condensers are clean by vacuuming or blowing
- Shut the shop door to keep it cooler when the mercury rises.