It’s festival season - and that means soft drink sales for local retailers whatever the weather.

Scotland’s unpredictable and changeable weather conditions make forward planning difficult for many c-stores. But when you have a high-profile music festival like T in the Park on your doorstep, business is guaranteed a boost - even if it rains.

Fortunately for award-winning retailer David Sands, a leading light in the Nisa-Today’s group, the sun shone on Balado, near Kinross, as 70,000-plus festival-goers rocked away over two days in July to the likes of Travis, Keane and Godfather of Soul James Brown. Resisting the urge to scream I Feel Good, Sands has previously admitted that T in the Park, now in its 12th year, has brought much-valued additional business to his busy Kinross store.

The store, in the small country town’s high street, occupies a prime corner site that is within walking distance of the Balado festival site. With many festival-goers camping on-site over the weekend, David Sands is generally their first port of call to stock up on their essential T in the Park survival kit, with soft drinks and water top of the list.

Staff member Linda Harley confirmed the store had been extremely busy over the two-day festival. “Business was brisk across the board but obviously products like soft drinks were flying out the door because the weather was so good,” she said.

As in previous years, David Sands was also allocated a number of T in the Park tickets to sell, with all of them quickly snapped up such is the popularity of the festival dubbed Scotland’s Glastonbury. Staff morale was also high as there was an opportunity to benefit from the laid-back, friendly atmosphere, and to talk to new customers.

In Edinburgh, retailers are gearing up for the arrival of thousands of visitors for this month’s International Festival and the Festival Fringe. C-stores trading near the city centre traditionally benefit from the uplift in sales the influx of people to the capital brings.

According to staff at Scotmid’s busy Lothian Road store, the former Spar outlet just a stone’s throw from the main Princes Street thoroughfare, festival time means an uplift in all impulse products, not just soft drinks. “There’s extra footfall and passing trade because there are so many more people in Edinburgh city centre, and we would expect to be selling more soft drinks and ice cream at this time of year anyway.”

At Bellevue Cash & Carry, commercial director George Benson warns that the benefit from these type of events tend to be felt by retailers in a very localised area: “Only a very small number of retailers - those in the city centre - get real benefit from the Edinburgh festival,” he says.

“Those who do are always well prepared because they know it’s happening and they’ve done it before. There are a few retailers we will be working with on deals with water and soft drinks, possibly crisps and snacks too, but for most, the festival is just part of their business that happens every year.

“Similarly, with something like T in the Park, it’s great news for the retailers right there on the doorstep, but again it’s a very localised event. All the same, my advice to all independent retailers is that it is always right to link in with themed events in your local area.”

Stephen Brown, operations director at David Sands, agrees that retailers should link in to local events and opportunities: “T in the Park has been fantastic for us over the eight years it’s been staged at Balado, and during that time we’ve learned to tailor things according to the weather,” he explained.

“Obviously, beer, soft drinks, water and ice cream are going to sell, more so when it’s hot, but in the past when the weather hasn’t been so good we’ve offered hot soup and stovies, and, believe it or not, we sell loads of bin liners when it rains - people use them to stay dry.

“Kinross has got to know T in the Park and our store has become a focal point for people over the years - it’s where they get dropped off and picked up and is a meeting place for people joining up with their friends.
“It’s about making it your business to know what’s happening in the area and keeping an eye on the weather. For example, we’ve got Kinross Show coming in a few weeks and will be busy with people from the farming community while our Kelty store will benefit from the local gala day.

“You don’t have to have a huge event like T in the Park to see your sales increase.”

Keep ‘em Common

London’s Clapham Common played host to the Bacardi B-Live Festival in July. Convenience Store spoke to local Budgens Express manager Yona Embaye about the event.

“I took £10,000 over the weekend during the B-Live London concert on the Common - more than double our usual takings - and much of this came from soft drinks.

“We always do well during these open-air events. To prepare for them I speak to my area manager who comes to see me about a week before and we work out the extra order. He’ll push it through and make sure I get the delivery on time.

“Before the day, I’ll usually take slower moving lines off the shelves, such as Cherry Coke, ginger beer and mango juice, and fill them with the most popular ones, which are Ribena, Lucozade, Coke and - most important - water. That’s the best seller and I make sure I never run out, so this time it was stacked up everywhere before the concert. You could hardly move in my office for it!

“I’ll make sure the chiller cabinets are full of these popular items as well, although I find that customers buy soft drinks from both the ambient shelves and the chiller.

“It’s not enough just to have extra stock though. I usually have only two staff in the store at any one time, but we had five for the concert, all working hard.

“We’ve got another concert coming up on the Common in August, and it’s set to be even bigger. These events are great for business and I’m really happy to cater for them.”