Small retailers who operated an open all hours policy during the festive season saw it pay dividends as the millennium new year produced record sales ­ easily beating Christmas as the busiest and most profitable time of the year. Many independents took advantage of the millennium bank holiday period when the big multiples were closed. But sales increases were frustrated by a failure to obtain the correct stocks ­ particularly on fresh products such as milk. Eddie Thompson, md of Scottish chain Morning, Noon & Night, was disappointed with the service from suppliers, even though sales were "significantly" up. He said: "Turnover could have been even greater if suppliers had delivered all the goods ordered, and on time. Unfortunately this was not the case. And trying to get hold of suppliers to discuss shortages and non deliveries was extremely difficult." Other retailers are worried similar problems will occur this year. They point out Christmas falls on a Monday, and say this will create another four day period in which suppliers will not be offering a full service. Londis said Christmas Eve, usually the busiest time for its retailers, was easily eclipsed by January 2, when some of members reported sales jumping by as much as 25% on last year. Spar retailers also enjoyed a bumper trading period. But many said the much hyped boom in sales of alcoholic drinks failed to materialise, largely because of bootlegging and aggressive pricing by the multiples. Fears of staff shortages during the holiday proved unfounded with many retailers finding willing volunteers prepared to take double pay for the shifts. l The price of a basket of commonly bought goods was 0.4% lower this Christmas than last year, says the British Retail Consortium Shop Price Index. {{NEWS }}