Source: Email poll of wholesalers

Wholesalers have had to work harder than ever to get the most from their businesses after the wet weather this summer hit sales and disrupted supply.

Almost three quarters (71%) of wholesalers in our survey say they have had to adopt new strategies in the past few months in order to make up for lost sales during the summer months.

One cash & carry operator admits he had to resort to "hard-hitting promotional activity" to keep sales up during June and July.

This hit his margins hard, he says - bad news in a sector that generates an average profit margin of 1.5% and already faces tough competition from the multiples.

This year's flooding has also taken its toll on supply and availability for many wholesalers. Almost half (43%) say the weather has affected availability. And an even greater number, 57% of respondents, say the poor weather had resulted in a downturn in sales.

Some categories experienced an unseasonal uplift in sales. "Our carbonate sales went down at the start of the summer, however confectionery sales went up during the same period," says one delivered operator, adding that though June and July were bad, sales picked up in August and September.

However, the unexpected demand combined with the damage caused by the floods exacerbated supply problems in some cases, say wholesalers, citing the issues at Cadbury's factory in Sheffield.

The bad weather wasn't entirely to blame for the slump, however. "Other factors have been instrumental in shortages of various products," said one wholesaler.

Ironically, Heinz, for instance, blamed hot weather early in the year for unexpected demand for HP Sauce as consumers kicked off the barbecue season in March and April.

Many wholesalers subsequently experienced shortages of HP Sauce that are only now being resolved.

This year's sales figures were also up against tough 2006 comparatives, wholesalers claimed. Last year, operators benefited from hot weather as well as the uplift in sales during the football World Cup.

Without a major sporting event this summer, it was always going to be difficult to match last year's performance.