“A perfect storm”
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The expression 'A Perfect Storm’ has been used in the media a lot recently to describe current business conditions in the UK
It generally means a rare combination of elements that when coinciding can significantly worsen a situation. The two words together have, in fact, been used so often that they have even topped a poll of phrases that people wish never to hear again in their lifetime. Setting aside irritations about this rampant cliché, how apt a description is it in terms of our own experiences at the start of 2018?
It is certainly true to say that 2018 has been, to put it mildly, challenging for a number of reasons. Firstly let’s get the ‘Beasts from the East’ out of the way. There have been two of them with a third threatening to pour snow over our Easter Eggs. As I have always said, weather plays a key part in maintaining upward sales in a delicatessen. Not only that but Saturday being on the whole the busiest day of the week means that it is particularly sensitive to weather events. If it rains on Saturday the whole week catches a cold. At the time of writing this we have completed 12 Saturdays so far this year and most have been affected by a slew of bad weather – Rain, wind, snow, ice, sleet. You name it – we’ve had it.
The result is that after 12 Saturdays of 2018 our sales are down compared to the first 12 Saturdays of 2017 by 11.5% and customers are down on these days by 11.3%. Thank goodness there are six other days in a week when you can try to catch up. Hallelujah for online sales, too! One area that does actually seem to benefit from the Beasts albeit as a small percentage of overall sales. The fact is that weekends are when speciality food shops are destinations for shoppers, and when this is disrupted by the weather overall sales are affected disproportionately.
There is of course nothing we can do about the weather – and believe me we have tried – and there is also very little we can do about the other combination of elements that conspire to create a perfect storm. For example our rent has gone up by about 10% this year and our rates liability by about 32%. Service charges are also up quite a bit, it is time for the next instalment of our Nest payments, we are negotiating a lease renewal, grappling with rising food prices, planning a refurbishment, trying to survive local building works and confronting a Pension Fund Deficit. Brexit stills overshadows things. Also receiving emails warning us about the implementation of GDPR by the end of May is not helpful! These are the combination of elements that make up a ‘Perfect Storm’ for us.
Under these circumstances it is easy to slip into a siege mentality. The problem is that it never achieves anything. On the contrary, it is important to remain positive and compartmentalise each of the various elements. Do what is possible to mitigate each issue, come up with a recovery plan, reduce costs and comfort zones where you can, keep positive communication going with the landlord and keep your team informed and engaged about the situation as much as possible.
The weather will get better, new customers arrive and online sales grow. Looking back at the past the Perfect Storms have often been in a teacup – let’s hope this one is. And it’s spring!