“2018: the year that was”

04 January 2019, 06:37 am
Expert Eye by John Shepherd

Out of the 46 years we have been trading, the year 2018 has been one of the most remarkable

Talk about troughs and peaks! From Brexit to building works, and from weather to royal weddings and World Cups, we have seen it all.

On a month-by-month basis sales and customers counts have swung dramatically. January actually started off serenely enough and turned out to be one of the best ever. Sales were up 3.9% on the previous year and average spending rose by 5.5%, although customer count was down 1.5%.

February wobbled a bit. Sales were down nearly 2% and customers down by 5%. Average spending was up but this often happens when customer count goes down. Core customers tend to spend more.

March was again down by 1.5% in terms of sales but a whopping 9.5% in terms of customers. This got me rummaging through Shepherd’s Mammoth Book of Excuses, with weather and building works being the most suitable candidates for blame.

Nothing prepared us for the horror of April. Sales were nearly 11% down and customers down 10%. It was, however, a month of four Saturdays compared to five the year before, and on one of them it rained heavily and sales were affected badly. Easter was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

May offered no real recovery with sales only fractionally up on the year before. From June onwards things got better with sales up 2.8%. July was exceptional with sales up 15.5% and even August and September chipped in with sales increases of 2.5% and 2% respectively. Glorious weather was the key ingredient, but add a dash of royal wedding and a sprinkling of World Cup and it was the perfect speciality food and drink cocktail.

October was actually a fraction down on the year before, but November was 4.5% up with the Christmas Lights Switch On the busiest November day we have ever had. Thanksgiving was also 3.4% up on the previous year.

As things stand we have managed to get to just under 1% up for the year. This would normally be a disappointing result for a summer of outstanding weather. For example and by contrast, our other shops are averaging 5% increases for the year. However, building works, which have at last finished, affected us for nigh on 18 months and hopefully we can now look to the future with renewed hope.

So on that subject, and as I am writing this at the end of November, how will December turn out? One of my theories used to be that if Christmas Day fell at the beginning of the week, then sales for the last seven days were generally not so good because a weekend interfered with the last minute rush. However, in recent times two good Christmas weeks have been in 2009 ( Christmas Day was on a Tuesday) and 2014 (Monday) thereby knocking that theory slightly on the head.

My next theory is that if there are four meaningful shopping Saturdays before Christmas Day it should be a bumper December. This year, with December 1st falling on a Saturday and the last Saturday before the big day falling on December 22nd, our hopes are that December 2018 will be a ‘good Christmas’ just like in 2012 – the last time this happened. Therefore fingers are firmly crossed in the hope that, by the time you read this, Christmas sales helped turn 2018 from a remarkable year into a memorable one.

And here’s to an even better 2019!

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