“The battle for optimism and morale in retail”

26 March 2020, 12:26 pm
Expert Eye by John Shepherd

After a turbulent Christmas season how was the start of 2020?

Looking at the eight week period up to 26th February, not too bad as a matter of fact. I am pleasantly surprised to say we have been quick off the blocks. Sales in January have risen 7.5% over last year and customer count 4.3%. Although, this is mainly down to two specific reasons over which we have very little control.

The weather for January this year has been mild if not actually benign. The temperature was on average nearly a degree above last year and it only rained on six days in London. This is one of the reasons why I keep droning on about the weather. Partridges is set back from the road about 35 metres and when it rains, especially in the evening, that 35 metres becomes like the border crossing into North Korea – rather off-putting to visitors. Sales in February have been a more turbulent matter, however. Two unwelcome storms, Ciara and Dennis, managed to blow away 16% of our sales compared to last year and 10% of our customers. By the middle of the month rainfall had already overtaken the of that whole month in 2019.

So by the time of writing in late February our 7.5% increase over last year has slipped to 6.3%. Yet there is light at the end of the February tunnel – and it is not an ambulance coming to take me away, yet. It is a Leap Year! Hallelujah! We have one, glorious, delightful extra day free of all the vulgarities of costs. It is also known as St Oswald’s Day. In a saintly manner it has so far evaded every attempt to be liable for rent, rates and service charge demands – at least in our experience. I hope no landlord is reading this. It comes at a propitious time of the year as well, falling halfway through the difficult first quarter for speciality foods. Therefore thanks very much to Julius Caesar for coming up with the idea of Leap Years in the first place. One day I would like to introduce him to Tutankhamun as a fellow benefactor to Partridges in terms of raising revenue (this is not a long list). One extra day a year may not seem much, a small character role in a Shakespearean drama perhaps, but falling on a Saturday this time will amount to approximately 2% of our total first quarter sales (weather permitting).

There are still only 52 Saturdays in 2020, just like most years. The last time there were 53 Saturdays was 2016. The next time will be 2022. Immediate payback will occur in fourSaturday March 2020 when last year there were five Saturdays in that particular month. But who cares? In the great battle for optimism and morale in modern retail every small step forward is of great importance.

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