Liz Steer Steer Consulting

Occupancy costs are second only to labour costs, so it's critical to make the space work. Shoppers visit independent stores on a mission, and weather changes cause spikes in demand that can empty shelves. Planning is key to coping with the vagaries of the weather.

Record sales and use history to plan, understanding demand is likely to be key to success. Along with information provided by suppliers and distributors, this will enable more accurate ordering and reduce the risk of out-of-stocks. Remember, suppliers also want success, so building this relationship and working together will improve fulfilment.

Flexible fixtures are essential. Record customers' shopping patterns to see which areas of the store work best. Can fixtures be moved or altered to provide additional square footage? Adding one shelf can make all the difference.

Supplier fixturing may be tempting, but is usually product specific, so avoid unless it is the ultimate wheeled unit for umbrellas or sunglasses.

Finally, tell customers you are in stock. Guide them to their purchase by using clear, uncluttered signage just below eye level.

Raj Krishan Retail controller, Landmark Wholesale

It sounds obvious, but the key for independent retailers to keep ahead of the weather is to follow the forecast for the week ahead so they can anticipate what products will be in demand.

A retailer should have a 'hot weather' plan and a 'cold weather' plan . For example, ahead of a hot spell, ensure the chilled offering is well stocked, including alcohol, soft drinks and ice cream. Also tap into other outdoor activities, such as barbecues and picnics.

If it's going to be bad weather, shoppers are likely to stay local. Therefore, it is important that independents are well stocked in all the essentials. Through local Landmark wholesalers, retailers can identify the bestsellers across each category and therefore ensure they have the core items in stock that shoppers will be wanting, whether it's rain or shine.

Regardless of whether it's sunny or not, independents should have a chilled offering already in situ, to cater for customers wanting a ready-chilled drink and basics such as dairy products. Landmark Wholesale's Hot House programme has put together information on how to best manage the chilled category.

Steve Fox Director of retail and Premier development, Booker

Independent retailers should keep a close eye on the weather to make sure their stores have the right offer to cope with customer demand when the weather changes.

By using Booker as their back store, independent retailers should be able to cope better with weather fluctuations. Rather than using valuable space as storage for stock, they can use this as selling space to maximise their profits and use Booker branches as their back space or storeroom.

Customers have the flexibility of being able to shop in their local Booker branch and pick up any products they need to ensure their summer availability.

Free, seven-day, multi-temperature deliveries are also available. Any product is delivered at cash and carry prices and customers have easy ways to order, such as Epos and internet, to ensure maximum availability.

However, if a product is running low, retailers can always top up and call in as and when they need to. We have recently extended our branch opening hours and removed credit card charges to make topping up even easier and help independent retailers cope.