Store owners should start preparing now for another winter of wild weather after experts warned of a repeat of last winter's icy conditions.

Meteorological group Positive Weather Solutions predicted another "harsh, snow-filled winter" in the coming months.

Last winter convenience stores were hailed as the "fifth emergency service" by customers as they managed to serve local communities when supermarkets suffered from failed deliveries and staff absences due to the adverse weather conditions.

Alun Evans of the Almondsbury community shop in Bristol reported a 60% increase in sales during the poor weather.

Keith Morley's Budgens store in Chalfront St Peter, Buckinghamshire also saw a huge increase in trade. "The shelves were almost stripped bare," he said. "There were nearly twice as many people in the store as usual and most were on foot."

The Forum of Private Business (FPB) advised retailers to put contingency plans in place now to keep any possible trading disruption to a minimum.

During the snow-filled weeks many retailers were forced to come up with last-minute plans to combat the poor weather. Simon Harrison of Spar in Cornwall had to use 4x4 vehicles to pick up stock for his store when deliveries failed to get through, and Dan Cock of Whitstone Stores in Devon used local suppliers when his bread delivery let him down.