With today's 24- hour society, peak times are stretching beyond the traditional morning, noon and night, especially for stores that cater for local populations who might not lead 9-5 lives. C-Store talks to retailers in diverse locations about their busy times

Food & Wine Farringdon

Mahesh Shah's Food & Wine Farringdon store in London sits right opposite the entrance to Farringdon station. His customers include commuters, clubbers and traders from the nearby markets.
"My big trading periods vary from the early morning traders to the nightclubbers who come in from about 10.30pm to 1.30am, mostly to buy booze. The traders come in from 5am as they know I've got fresh morning goods and the smell is always fantastic. The commuters start from 7.30am, buying cigarettes, milk and breakfast, then it's lunch and on the way home it's snacks and alcohol for the evening."

Budgens, Virginia Quay

Andy Patel's Budgens in Virginia Quay in London's Docklands is right next to the Docklands Light Railway. "The busiest time is from 5.45am to 8.45am, with the commuters going to work. They tend to buy chewing gum, water, a paper or a Danish. People are in so much of a rush in the morning. You can see the railway from where we are and people are always rushing to catch their trains. It does put pressure on staff and we always make sure we've got two on in the morning."

Spar, Bentley, West Midlands

Joanne Ward manages the Spar store in Wolverhampton Road West, Bentley, West Midlands. It's one of the few 24-hour stores in the area and last year a £300,000 refit introduced a separate food-to-go department.
"We're open 24 hours and we're known for our hot food, so we'll get a lot of people coming in after the clubs shut, from 1am onwards. Sweet and sour chicken and curries are big sellers at that time -
I have one member of staff on food to go all night, cooking up the dishes and putting them into cartons. We used to sell alcohol all night but now we don't, and although takings are down it's a much more manageable environment. People used to come from as far as Wolverhampton and Walsall and they'd drink outside the store. We had security on duty then, but now the staff tell me it's just not necessary. There's not much of a gap between the last of the late-night curries and the first breakfasts - customers start coming in as soon as the newspapers arrive at about 4am. We do a special offer on bacon butties and coffee."

Leeds Co-op City Store

The Leeds Co-op City Store is part of a new
residential development in the heart of the city, and Alex Kirke is the manager.
He says: "The store is in an area of about 500 flats in the centre of Leeds, so there's a lot of young hip city types around here. They tend to go out clubbing late at night so they'll have a few drinks and a meal at home before that and are in here from 9-11pm. Magners has been really popular again this summer and thin and crispy pizzas romp out of the door. I think there is a pattern developing of entertaining more at home - I don't know if it's the smoking ban or the price of drinks in pubs, but it's working well for us."

Tates Spar Nottingham

Gary Yeomans' 1,000sq ft Spar store is close to the entertainment area of Nottingham and is surrounded by restaurants and theatres. "We're very near Nottingham Theatre Royal and often get people coming in after shows at 10.30pm to pick up bits and pieces. You can tell who they are - they tend to be better dressed than most customers and they'll typically buy wine. Around Christmas time, when there are children's shows on, we'll get a rush at about 7.30pm before the curtain goes up. I guess they're buying supplies to take into the theatre with them."

WRVS, Liverpool

Marie Adlen's WRVS store is located at the heart of Liverpool's perpetually busy Aintree Hospital. "I have been in retail for 15 years and this is definitely the busiest place I have ever worked. We receive a constant stream of hungry customers throughout the day, but if I had to pinpoint a peak time it would be between 6pm and 8pm when the evening's visiting hours start. That's when friends and family tend to drop in to buy snacks and confectionery gifts for their loved ones staying in the hospital. It's also the change-over time for many of the hospital staff, so we tend to get an army of doctors and nurses dropping in for refreshments at the beginning or end of their shifts."

Desi, Hounslow, Middlesex

Londis retailer Raj Chandegra's Desi store in Hounslow, Middlesex, is on the walking route to Twickenham rugby ground.
"We certainly get extra trade on days when there's a match or concert on at the stadium. Although we're about a mile away from the ground we're on the route many people take to walk to it and the British Rail station is on the same road as ours. It generally gets busy a couple of hours before and a couple of hours after a match. People generally buy snacking items and drinks, and we also sell quite a lot of beer when people are on their way to or from the ground. We usually have to put on one extra member of staff for security reasons and to make sure everyone gets served quickly."

Barbican Newsagent, London

Mr S Patel's shop, Barbican Newsagents, is opposite London's famous Smithfield Market where traders and buyers have bought and sold meat for 140 years.
"We're here at 4.10am and at that time it's mainly the meat market traders in here; they don't want to wait. They always say 'Why not open 24 hours?' but I need some sleep! They buy papers, milk, drink and cigarettes and this goes on up until about 8am. We get lorry drivers, too, and the buyers from the market. I can sense straightaway when it's a buyer - besides, the whole market wears white clothes. Over the three years we've been here I've got to know everyone. The pubs around here open at 6am, I think."

Tates, Birmingham Int'l Airport

Tates has five airport stores including one at Birmingham International Airport. Tates managing director Geoff Hallam says: "Our airport stores are very busy and experience some real peaks. Certain times of the day are busier than others, but it all depends on the type and number of flights. The airport is generally busy in the mornings with business people flying in and out. But we might also have a really busy period between say 2pm and 5pm if a large number of holiday flights are leaving. The airports change the schedules in May and October so we sit down then with airport staff to anticipate particularly busy times. Airport stores can also be quite traditional if you think about the number of airport staff we are also catering for. One million passengers are supposed to create about 1,000 jobs."

Elegance Food & Wine, London

Salim Khalid manages his brother's Elegance Food & Wine in Waterloo in London. The shop is next to Waterloo station and has fantastic views of the London Eye on the Thames.
"We're a 24-hour store but tend to get very busy at lunchtime and during the evening. People come in from County Hall and from the Eurostar trains. The workers from the station come in between 9pm and 10pm to buy tea, coffee and snacks. We sell lots of coffee and tea. It's 60p a cup so it's a lot cheaper than in the station - we did that to bring the customers in. I know everyone around here now - all the workers. We don't seem to be affected by the London Eye; it shuts for three weeks every year and I don't notice a difference."

Nisa Local, Caithness

Douglas Fraser's Nisa Local Store is right on the tip of northern Scotland in Thurso, Caithness. However, despite its remote location, Douglas is kept busy by a steady stream of visitors from the local school and housing estate.
"My peak trading time is between 12 and 1pm. That's when all the little cherubs from the nearby school come in to buy their lunchtime snacks - mainly chocolate and soft drinks. It's also when the mums come in and buy their groceries before picking up their youngsters from the local primary school. The mad rush is immediately followed by my quietest time of the day - between 2 and 3pm - before it picks up again when the children leave school."

Buy 2 Win, East Sussex

The Buy 2 Win 24-hour convenience store in Hove, East Sussex, is situated on the main road reasonably close to other 24-hour stores. Owner Magdi Eols says: "Our busiest time is usually about 5-11pm, and then we have a more steady trade throughout the night. It helps to be able to sell alcohol all the time, but it's not the only reason we open 24 hours. We serve a residential area so many people will buy groceries when the supermarkets are shut.
It's good to be able to sell our full range of products all the time. We're a family-run business and all help out if it's really busy."

Crick Post Office & Stores

Just up the road from Christopher and Margaret Attridge's Northamptonshire Crick Post Office & Stores is the Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal, known locally as DIRFT. Says Chris: "We open at 5.30am and almost immediately there are people waiting for papers and cigarettes as a lot of the DIRFT workers start at 6am. There are a lot of shift patterns there and I've often wondered whether it would be worthwhile staying open later to catch the later shifts. The Co-op up the road opens until 8pm so they have a bit of a monopoly from 5.30pm, when we close. But you have to balance life and work. Actually, we hear this month in Northamptonshire which post offices will shut and I hope I'll still be here. I think the DIRFT site might be one of the reasons I am. In fact, the site has just started on phase 2 and will almost double the size, so it can only get busier here, really."

M to Go, Hamilton Square station

Dougie Hannah manages the M to Go railway station store at Hamilton Square in Birkenhead. It's the last station before Liverpool and is open 19 hours a day, between 5.30am and 12.30pm.
"I don't get a minute's respite between the hours of 7.45am and 8.30am on weekday mornings. That's when most people set off to catch their trains to work. They nip in to buy a newspaper, bottle of water and a pack of cigarettes for the journey. I also sell a surprisingly large amount of Lucozade first thing in the morning.
"We also get quite a few local office workers who pop in to buy milk for their morning cups of tea.
"Just outside the station is also a large nursery, so I also get a large number of harassed parents being dragged in by their children to buy sweets, chocolate and juice drinks."