Welcome to The Grocery Trader’s quarterly Back of Store feature, with the latest crop of stories about equipment and services to help improve productivity and performance in the back of store and the supply chain as a whole.

chazAs we move further into the second half of the year, it’s time for retailers to start training their sights on Christmas, and improving and investing in infrastructure in the back of store and beyond to support the business in this crucial part of the year.

Here’s a timely look at what the experts have to say about the prospects for Christmas trading this time round. As a starter, the UK is now confirmed as now one of the fastest growing Western economies, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The latest news from the CBI is promising too, and confirms the need to invest in the back of store. Retail sales volumes grew solidly in the year to July, rebounding from a disappointing performance a month earlier, according to the CBI’s newest monthly Distributive Trades Survey. This showed retailers expecting sales volumes to grow even faster in August and stocks rising in relation to expected demand, in anticipation of this stronger sales growth. The CBI survey shows grocers performing particularly well among the UK’s retail sub-sectors, and retail Internet sales volumes rising solidly.

The other crucial factor to consider is of course the consumers. According to Mintel, the market research experts, one way to estimate the Christmas effect is to make the assumption that the average for the earlier part of the year is the norm and that anything above that in the final quarter is the Christmas effect, of which two thirds will be spent in December.

In Mintel’s eyes last year, with consumer confidence rising and a strong retail sales growth throughout, a good Christmas was to be expected, and they say there’s everything to suggest that the strong retail trend will continue through 2014. That said, after years of being careful with their hard earned money because of the recession, last Christmas consumers were extra picky and in no mood to make do with second best. So this time there’s everything to play for – which puts even more pressure on the back of store to gear up to work to maximum efficiency in the remainder of the year.

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