While most of us are still basking in the glow of a record Summer heatwave, the icy memory of our snowbound March still lingers in the mind as a meteorological counterbalance.
Drinks Industry Ireland asked NOffLA Chairman Gary O’Donovan for his thoughts on the off-licensee’s year-to-date.
“2018 has been defined by two major weather events,” Gary said, “January and February were typically the two quietest months of the year as we struggled to escape the clutches of Winter. Little did we know the ‘Beast from the East’ was waiting around the corner!
“But as many NOffLA members are experienced and family-operated, past experiences will have told them that these weather events are opportunities for retail which only rarely present themselves, provided that staff safety can be guaranteed.
“These are also opportunities for smaller operators to show their customers that they can adapt better than the big operators in a weather crisis!
“So March came upon us and the snow and ice, unprecedented in its volume and quality, soon followed. Big operators started to struggle with frozen carparks, logistical hold-ups and the ability of staff to get to and from work. The big multiples started to close early and were running out of stock prematurely.
“NOffLA members, on the other hand, stayed open where possible and safe to do so in their convenient locations. Being family-run and community-conscious, we attempted where possible to keep the show on the road throughout and serve our respective communities. The rewards for staying open were a big uplift in turnover and sales and an appreciation of the community-focused service we provide.
“In the immediate aftermath of the snowstorm the big multiples struggled to centrally restock. NOffLA members had no such problems and restocked easily better, satisfying customer needs.
“The snow and ice stayed for a while longer and business was good. “You would like to think members during this time were rewarded with new customers subsequently, as some good customer relations were built during this period. March/April were very good months for the Independent off-trade ie NOffLA members.
“Who would have thought that in a number of weeks, we would subsequently face another massive weather event ie our hottest/longest Summer in living memory! Mid-May to end-of-July non-stop sunshine and record temperatures – unbelievable!
“Consumption along all categories received a boost in the heatwave. Beer, cider, rosé and white wines, prosecco, craft beer, gin and premium Irish whiskey all received a boost in sales. Ice, snacks, confectionary, tobacco, party glasses – to name but a few – all got a twist in sales. The barbecues were out, the back garden was open and the consumption began!!
“No night of the week was out of bounds as people thought this may never happen again and will end shortly! It didn’t and it went on and on! The weather moderated in August and people were barbecue/consumption-weary by the long sunny spell. August took on a more moderate weather pattern as a lot of people faced into back-to-school costs after their holidays.
“Overall the year has been good to the off-trade so far with consumer confidence still growing, but at a slow pace. The big multiples continue to drive footfall using alcohol pricing as a battering ram, which is regretful.
“NOffLA members are reporting that 2018 is marginally better than 2017 for sales but the growth is not evenly spread as some parts of the country lag behind in Ireland’s economic recovery.
“Hopefully the Autumn/Winter will be good to off-trade and NOffLA members generally,” he concluded.