Retail Sales Heat Up

Aug 11, 2003
George Anderson

By George Anderson

The record heat wave that has hit the UK has an upside for retailers.

Wal-Mart’s Asda division saw sales climb 365 percent for barbecues, 250 percent for suntan/sun block and 80 percent for beer, according to a report from The Guardian.

Chris Carden, Asda’s general manager for food supply said, “British weather is a very strange thing, but on this occasion, thank goodness, the experts got it right.”

Asda and others were aided by weather forecasting services, which predicted the heat wave several months ago.

Tesco had to adjust its stock for cold and flu medicine sales after a 30 percent upsurge of product sales within those categories.

Safeway increased the number of cart runs it made as part of its Operation Hotdog. Associates retrieving carts were also on the lookout for any pets locked in cars.

Changes in the weather are also having an impact on other category sales as well as on store routines.

Emma King of Asda stresses the importance of flexibility “because changing weather will change people’s minds within hours.” Asda stores in Leeds, reports The Guardian, “have been taking short-range forecasts to try to cope with shoppers who set out at 3pm to buy barbie food, encounter a thunderstorm en route, and end up getting convenience meals instead.”

Moderator’s Comment: What customer service and store
operations lessons can be learned from the UK experience with severe weather?
Are there lessons learned in the states under similar conditions that would
be helpful to European retailers?

If The Guardian report has it correct, Asda stores are
making changes on the fly as new weather forecasts come in. While this seems
extraordinarily responsive to the needs of shoppers, it must also make major
demands on store staff if there are no more associates on hand than is usual.
Anderson – Moderator

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