UK grocery retail sector sees movie-style plot twist – The comment from The Grocery Trader

Welcome to The Grocery Trader’s February issue. This month sees our features on Barbeques and Spring Cleaning, a welcome reminder of winter passing, and our first quarterly look of 2011 at Warehousing & Logistics, the driving force behind the UK’s food and drink supply chain.

Like a major movie franchise, the UK retailing sector is a must-watch these days, as the major players slug it out like boxers for the leadership. In the latest plot twist, Tesco and M&S both blamed the snow for weaker than expected Christmas trading. You’d suppose all our supermarkets faced similar snow problems, like wastage and the cost of gritting car parks. And yet Sainsbury managed to turn in a surprisingly successful December performance, overtaking Asda to become Britain’s second largest supermarket. Here’s to the sequel.

There’s doom and gloom every day about the economy. But how much should we trust the so-called experts’ forecasts? For inspiration, there’s always the cinema. The Black Swan of austerity has seduced consumer confidence and turned life into a nightmare for millions. Like the hero in 127 Hours our economy was running along, happy and carefree, until the debt boulder trapped it and now we have to cut off our right arm to get loose. Finally, we’re waiting for Cameron and Co to stop stuttering on painfully and rouse Britain to action, as in The King’s Speech. Oscar-winning stuff.

In a few short months it’ll be summer, and barbecue time once again. As our Barbeque feature reveals, the combination of good weather and people cutting down eating out and cooking at home instead, sparked Britain’s barbeque food market to grow 65% from 2005-2010 to £1.7 billion. There’s no World Cup in 2011, but hopefully the glorious 10-day stretch of Easter, the Royal Wedding and May Bank Holiday will kick off the barbeque season.

Looking at our Spring Cleaning feature, 2011 promises super sparkling sales for cleaning products. First there’s the traditional British spring cleaning frenzy – as winter draws to a close, it just needs a few minutes’ sunshine to send Brits on a cleaning spree  And not only that, these days cleaning products are enjoying increased demand thanks to the spending squeeze, with the trend to stay in and entertain at home making consumers do more cleaning up before guests arrive.

Finally, as our Warehousing & Logistics feature reports, this month sees the Food & Drink Logistics Show return to the NEC from Sunday 27 February. Our supply chains are vital assets that will help drive our economic growth over the next few years, but like the goods they deliver they need careful managing and replenishment.

Have a successful month.

Charles Smith, The Grocery Trader