It wasn't all that long ago that at this time of year I would be frantically preparing for the extra workload, taking lots of customer orders and filling every inch of shelf space with seasonal delights. Sadly, those days are long gone, quite simply because the multiples are so aggressive with their pricing and range that it's impossible to compete.

I have simply reverted to providing a pure convenience role, with a basic selection of cards and wrapping paper and the usual selection of confectionery and alcohol. Most of my seasonal offerings are promotions, so I sacrifice margin which at one time would have been compensated for by volume.

It's difficult when my promotions don't compete with the multiples'. For years I was able to sell a lot of Roses and Quality Street tins at a very competitive price. This year I have only Quality Street on sale at £5.49, yet the multiples are able to push them out at £4.50, backed by national advertising.

My promotional activity is supported by the Booker Retail Club, and this year for the first time they have not included any Selection boxes. This, as well as the very limited seasonal range now on offer at all the cash and carries I visit, is a clear reflection of the impact the multiples have had on the seasonal market.

How do I respond to this changing market? Next year I will have to give serious consideration to significantly reducing my promotional activity and simply rely on the increased margins from convenience sales. For now, though, when I finish writing this my wife and I will be off to Asda, Morrisons and Tesco to stock up on Oyster Bay, John Smiths and Becks all of which are at least 20% cheaper than my local Booker branch. I don't like acknowledging that I do it, let alone doing it, but these are difficult times and every bit of extra margin helps.