After an unseasonably mild autumn, a cold chill finally descended on the UK this week, and not a moment too soon, by the looks of the latest results from Kantar, Nielsen et al.
If you’re only in food and drink you’re probably not too bothered about the surplus of coats and woolie jumpers; but it’s somehow harder to eat a mince pie when it’s 12C. Or at least that’s what Sainsbury’s Mike Coupe is assuming, as he reported on a slow start to Christmas trading last week.
Is the market really that sensitive to the temperature gauge? Weather is for wimps, Sir Stuart Rose once said. But with so many wider macro conditions unfavourable, it really does feel like a straw to be clutched at. What we need right now is Goldilocks weather: a sustained cold spell, not too cold, mind (no retailer wants the blizzards of the past two winters), and not too hot either, but just right.
Talking of thermometers, here’s something we don’t need: the European Commission meddling with the temperature gauges of supermarket fridges. Astonishingly, with a very real possibility that the entire intra-government banking system could freeze up again amid eurozone paralysis, bureaucrats in Brussels have decided that temperatures in our fridges aren’t low enough, and represent a health hazard. In the UK alone, refrigeration costs for UK grocers would have to rise by an estimated £100m if the EC’s proposals are ratified.
But there are also hidden costs: clearly there’s an environmental impact. And what about the impact on the in-store environment? I regularly see shoppers walking around supermarkets in thick coats in mid-summer.
And in Marks & Spencer, the only UK supermarket that regularly sets its thermometer gauge at the EC’s recommended 2C, the result is not only apples that take two hours to reach room temperature; I know I’m not the only one who finds the coldroom conditions in-store offputtingly frosty.
Brussels sprouts are famously hardy and frost-resistant. And I don’t know where this Brussels idea sprouted from.
But we must give it a frosty reception, and resist it at all costs.