What is the biggest time of year for you?
Vickram: Christmas is a big time for us sales go up 10-15%.
Tony: If we get warm weather then a good summer is the best time for us profit-wise, bigger than Christmas or Easter. In terms of build-up and sorting the roster and pre-orders, our biggest season is Christmas.
Sharon: It’s the run up to Christmas that is an important time for us, both in terms of the efforts that goes into preparation and also the profit made.
Lesley: Summer holidays, when the kids are off school, makes a big difference to our sales, so we make sure we stock up on soft drinks and ice cream.
What are your most seasonally sensitive categories?
Vickram: Alcohol sales go up over Christmas and we stock up on alcohol gift packs. Sales of traditional biscuits and tinned sweets also do really well at that time of year.
Tony: Traditionally, alcohol is the biggest seasonal category. Products such as port, aperitifs and liqueurs all sell well over the festive period. Meanwhile, over the summer, fresh produce such as coleslaw for salads and meat for barbecues sells well.
Sharon: The off-licence is easily the most seasonally sensitive category sales go up over Christmas.
Lesley: Soft drinks are very seasonal. This year in particular we made sure we had loads of EuroShopper drinks as they’re affordable for school kids.
In what way do you celebrate seasonal occasions?
Vickram: We always put up decorations around the store at Christmas to give it a positive atmosphere. At Easter we don’t do big eggs, but we do stock Mini Eggs and Cadbury Creme Eggs.
Tony: Halloween seems to get bigger every year, so we put pumpkins around the store. We also put up posters for fireworks’ nights. We don’t get too carried away with Christmas decorations as they can get in the way of lighting and security cameras.
Sharon: We put on a summer fair every year. We organise the whole thing, from hiring a stage, to setting up stalls. The whole community gets involved.
Lesley: We try to do some kind of window display we had spiders and masks for Halloween, and have Santa outfits for Christmas.
How do you decide which products and in what amounts to stock for special occasions?
Vickram: We look at sales for last year on our epos system and pay attention to customer demand for products.
Tony: Throughout the year we keep a close eye on the weather, especially during the summer. It’s also a case of common sense. For example, when the weather is cold then we stock up on fuel such as wood and coal.
Sharon: At the end of Christmas and Easter I make a note of anything I ran out of and anything I had left over, so I know to amend the order next time round.
Lesley: We use epos to look back at last year’s sales, but we’ve been here nine years so generally have a good feel for things.
Have you ever had any mishaps with seasonal events?
Vickram: We’ve never really had any major mishaps, thankfully.
Tony: In 2007 we still had Easter eggs in August!
Sharon: We’re normally pretty spot on, but you’ll never sell everything. Once I over-ordered on the 99p kiddies’ Easter eggs, but a local charity was doing an Easter egg hunt, so I sold them on at cost price.
Lesley: We once themed the store with Carlsberg-branded bunting during a big match over the football season and we ended up running out of Carlsberg!
How do you deal with leftover seasonal produce?
Vickram: If a product is nearing its sell-by date, you just reduce the price. We don’t sell products such as advent calendars because if people don’t buy them then you just get stuck with them.
Tony: We reduce products, initially to get the cost price back, and then just to get any money back at all. It’s better to mark down produce and make a loss than to bin it altogether.
Sharon: I used to put products such as wrapping paper into storage, but now we’re more aware of cash flow, so rather than have it waiting around we sell it at a reduced price.
Lesley: If it’s a promotional product then we continue the promotion until it has sold through. Or we might just put a line on promotion ourselves.
Are there any extra seasonal events that you are planning to add next year?
Vickram: Over the summer we’ll probably set up a World Cup stand with alcohol and put some flags up. We did it for another tournament a while back and it was a hit.
Tony: Budgens encourages us to join in British Food Fortnight, so next year we’ll make an effort to get involved with that.
Sharon: We’re always considering different events.
Lesley: We’ve celebrated Australia Day before, where we gave away an inflatable surfboard. We’ve talked about celebrating Chinese New Year, but I’m not sure we have enough Chinese customers to buy into it.