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Convenience retailers winning snow fight

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UK retailers with a focus on convenience such as Spar and the Co-operative group were better positioned than many of the largest retailers to emerge unscathed during the UK’s heavy snow last week, it has been suggested.

Retail specialist at SAS UK Cindy Etsell said that many shipments arrive from a central distribution centre before the weekend rush and any disruptions to this supply chain “would have caused huge problems”.

With figures from accountancy and business advisory firm BDO showing that year-on-year high street sales growth in November slowed compared to the same month in 2009, there were not too many winners in British retail during the last seven days.

Etsell remarked: “It’s the smaller local shops and convenience stores like the Co-op and Spar that probably benefit most from the wintery conditions because that’s where people are most likely to go to get what they need.”

Indeed, sales activity at the Co-op remained buoyant during the freezing temperatures, according to a spokesperson for the group.

She told Retail Gazette: “Co-operative food stores across the UK have remained open and continue to serve their local communities despite the bad weather.

“Our stores are very busy as people are tending to shop locally because of the weather and there is high demand for bread, milk, salt and fresh produce.”

The Co-op representative added that staff across the retailer’s distribution network have worked hard in tough conditions in order to maintain good levels of customer service.

“Though there are inevitably delays with some deliveries, they are getting through,” she revealed.

Reflecting on what larger retailers could do to improve operations in times of bad weather, Etsell said: “Better forecasting would help retailers understand what the most important products are for each shop, so they can prioritise them and find the best way to get them onto shelves to be prepared for changing conditions.”

BDO’s High Street Sales Tracker for November shows fashion sales were up by 2.8 per cent year-on-year - a slower rate of growth than the figure reported in November 2009.

Annual growth in gifting and health and beauty products, as well as non-store sales, were also below par.

Head of Retail at BDO Don Williams said: “The weather has put people off shopping, but it’s come so early consumers still have time to do their Christmas shopping.

“Retailers will be nervous, but the fact we’ve had this snowfall at the end of November rather than mid-December means they won’t have to panic discount.”

Published on Monday 06 December by Editorial Assistant

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