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Trading at Partridges through the autumn has been hit or miss to put it mildly. September was a hit, halfway through and October is bordering on a miss – at least compared to last year.
The traditional weekly patterns of trade – steady increase or decline in sales – no longer seem to exist. One week in particular was double digits down on another. September, with better weather, seemed to restore hopes for a reasonable Christmas. But a bad week of rain, a sluggish start to October and talk of further lockdowns made us think again.
Wariness once more is combining with weariness regarding the Covid-19 situation. Recent stories in the press of Ocado’s Christmas delivery slots already being booked up
reminded me of our own situation.
The erratic sales experience I mentioned above is reflected very much in our customer delivery services. The good news is that speciality foods are a real hit for customers who request deliveries. And the cost of the delivery does not seem prohibitive in our part of the world. However, the not so good news is there seems to be no rhyme nor reason as to why one day we seem to be happily inundated with delivery requests and then the next day it goes alarmingly quiet.
Weather is an obvious reason but doesn’t always fit the pattern. Neither does breaking news, nor traffic problems or television programmes – which are sometimes suggested as reasons for quiet lulls. This volatility makes it challenging to organise a serious delivery service in terms of staffing and fulfilment. Having enough labour to deal with a rush of deliveries while still maintaining service standards in the shop is a key balance of priorities. In total our deliveries are still only a small percentage of overall sales, at around 5%, but nevertheless a growing one.
We hope that by putting in more resources to this project for Christmas 2020 we can benefit from a previously under resourced area of prospective sales without disrupting footfall to the shop.
Clearly further analysis needs to be carried out to identify with whom and by how we can grow this important area. As is so often the way with creativity in retailing – desperation is the greatest prophet. Ideas form in difficult times but developing them into sustainable aspects of the shop is another matter. I look forward to reporting our Christmas sales to see if there was any noticeable uplift in hampers and seasonal gift ideas delivered to front doors at short notice.
As this is our 49th Christmas and most memorable, for all the wrong reasons, I sincerely hope and believe that festive sales will be better than many of us fear. Speciality foods will always have a role to play and perhaps more this year than before. For that reason I wish you all a wary, but still, very Merry Christmas in a positive spirit – from one family business to many others.