Co-op bidding to build on "optimal" summer trading

Convenience retailers have a glorious opportunity to boost sales in the days between Christmas and New Year, according to a leading retailer. 

The Co-op is bidding to build upon magnificent summer sales growth and it has identified that trading period as key for the channel.

BWS trading manager Simon Cairns told DRN: “Christmas itself is very much a pre-planned occasion. You go out with a shopping list and buy all your family’s favourite bits and pieces. There will still be products that you go and top up on, and we can play a really important part in that mission, but for me the bigger opportunity is the week in between.

“People don’t really want to do a big shop, and you have the opportunity to sell them some really interesting products. Customers want to trade up when they see they are getting quality. They can see a broad spectrum of price points, but also a clear hierarchy in terms of quality and price, and that gives confidence that if you are to pay an extra £1 or £2 for a special occasion you would be rewarded with a really good bottle.”

Cairns’ team buys for 4,000 Co-op stores across the UK, but recently extended its remit after the retailer bought Nisa, adding another 2,200 stores to the estate. Nisa also supplies Costcutter, meaning the Co-op team now looks after 7,500 outlets.

“It’s a really good fit, because we have been focused on what a convenience store should provide and what missions it should exceed in,” said Cairns. 

“When I look at the work we’ve done on our range – we’ve been focusing on single bottles or single cans or multipacks in the beer world and fractional bottles in spirits. We’ve been trying to link mixers with spirits in deals, because it makes it more of a ready-to-drink occasion, and getting fractionals in wine, trying to tailor our range to be the best it can be in the convenience sector. 

“We can pass on some of those learnings to the independent convenience sector through Nisa and Costcutter. It would benefit convenience as a whole.”

The Co-op’s BWS category is up 7.7% year on year and it massively overtrades in this sector. Its share of the grocery trade is about 6.3%, but its BWS share of trade is 9%. Cairns said it benefited from “a perfect storm” this summer. “It played to all of our strengths,” he said. 

“When it’s hot, we’ve got chillers in every store, so we do well with beer, cider, white wine, rosé and sparkling. That’s a huge driver of growth. 

“Nobody quite expected the England football team to do as well as it did. People didn’t stock up, but they were coming in to buy enough beer or wine for the game that night. That was very useful. 

“With CO2 we weathered the storm pretty well. Our supply chain was brilliant. We bought stock in anticipating the weather, but it also helped us through the CO2 crisis, so we maintained strong availability. 

“Particularly within convenience that was quite a big challenge. Convenience stores can’t really hold much stock. 

“The fact that we had good levels of stock in our depots just as the weather started allowed us to carry stock through the CO2 crisis. In a way it was a perfect storm for us. We couldn’t have traded any better if we’d tried.”

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