Welcome to the November Grocery Trader. Our big news this month is that we have upgraded the software for our digital editions so it’s easier for you to read The Grocery Trader online wherever, whenever you want to.
Now the clocks have gone back and the mornings are lighter, in this issue we’re looking forward to next year with features on Spring Cleaning and Healthy Living. Meanwhile, with Christmas just over a month away our quarterly Warehouse & Logistics feature looks at the latest kit and solutions to help you achieve peak performance in the back of store and in your supply chains between now and the festive break.
What kind of consumer spending can we expect this Christmas? It’s not looking good: the latest ONS statistics show our economy unexpectedly contracted 0.4% between July and September. By this measure we’re still in recession. It’s the first time UK GDP has shrunk six quarters in a row, since figures began 50 years ago. And as this is only the first estimate, the figure could later be revised up or down! If it’s any consolation, the experts blame our economy’s reliance on the service sector, and financial services particularly, for keeping us in recession unlike France and Germany who are now officially out.
Despite the flat figures UK retailers are proving resilient. An encouraging 64% of retail businesses feel the recession has made them more efficient, and see other positives including a greater focus on customer service, according to the Barclays Take One Small Step Campaign. The research reveals the recession having a mixed impact. While you might anticipate 45% of retail businesses’ working hours increasing, and 13% seeing recession-related redundancies, almost a quarter are reporting improvements to their business strategy as a result of the recession.
As our November issue confirms, the UK grocery market continues to do well. One product category proving remarkably robust is microwaveable hot snacks. In this edition we interview John Armstrong, Marketing Director of Kepak Convenience Foods. Kepak’s innovative Rustlers have been a runaway success since launching here in 2000, becoming a byword among young adults, and 16-24 males in particular, for immediate hunger relief. Rustlers have continued to grow steadily over the years since and Kepak has built microwaveable hot snacks into a £107m category, which it leads with a dominant share. And the recent successful launch of UGO’s Deli Café, inspired by high street coffee shop paninis, has given Kepak confidence that they can take the hot sandwich concept into new areas beyond burgers. Watch this space!
Have a successful month.
Charles Smith, The Grocery Trader