We know that confectionery is important to Christmas sales, particularly in convenience stores, but how can retailers make the best of the seasonal opportunities?
The giants of the industry argue that there are three vital components to a happy Christmas – timing, visibility and range.
According to Mondelez International, Christmas confectionery sales were worth £697m in 2014 and 34% of that total was bought on impulse.
The company behind Cadbury added that in 2014, the average basket spend in small stores increased by 14% during December and that £1 out of every £12 spent in small stores between September and December was spent on confectionery.
And all of that, it says, gives retailers very good reason to start seasonal sales early.
It recommends stocking single-serve seasonal products from 12 weeks before the big day, introducing Christmas-themed sharing products with eight weeks to go and adding top-up gifts for the final four weeks.
A spokesperson said: “In October, build your range with advent calendars.
“In November extend it with the introduction of tree decorations, selection boxes and gifting novelties.
“In December, remove advent calendars and focus on driving impulse.”
Mars Chocolate says getting stock right early is key to successful Christmas sales.
Trade communications manager Bep Dhaliwal said: “Stock up early to make the most of the extended sales window throughout the season.
“Chocolate is an intrinsic part of Christmas, so it’s un-surprising that it’s the number one gift during this time.
“As we get closer to the big day, we expect more people to indulge in a treat, whether it’s for themselves or as a gift for their family and friends.”
Quoting figures from IRI total market, a Nestlé spokesperson said: “Early season shoppers spend more per trip, at £13.60 against £12.08 for mid-season shoppers, and shop more frequently, 3.5 times versus 2.9 times.”
But having the right stock at the right time is only part of the solution. The big manufacturers agree that visibility is vital.
Dhaliwal at Mars said: “Consumers love event displays, so create in-store theatre with a Christmas display. Ensure you use impactful POS units to bring Christmas to life in store.”
Mondelez advises using manufacturers’ POS to showcase your seasonal range and its spokesperson said: “Remember to utilise the impulsive counter space for self-eat treats.”
The third ingredient for a profitable Christmas, according to the manufacturers, is stocking a complete range.
Mondelez said this should include single-serve lines, sharing novelties, advent calendars, selection boxes, gifting novelties, tubes, tree decorations, giving and sharing packs and boxed chocolates.
Nestlé underlined the importance of the kids seasonal impulse category saying it is now worth £10.7m and accounts for 73% of total seasonal impulse sales.
And Mondelez stressed the importance of the Christmas stocking and encouraged retailers to stock a range of stocking fillers for under £1.
The big companies are extending their ranges and introducing seasonal packs of their most popular brands for Christmas.
Mars is bringing back its Merryteaser Reindeer single-serve product and extending the range to include a sharing bag with an RRP of £1.29 and a gift pack at £3.00.
And it is repeating the limited run of the Galaxy Gift for You White.
The firm says Celebrations was the most popular boxed range at Christmas 2014 and it’s launching a new TV ad for the brand in November.
Mondelez is repeating the limited run of Cadbury Dairy Milk Snowman, which it says had sales of £3.1m last year, in two varieties with an RRP of 65p. It will also be bringing back the Toblerone 60g tablet.
Some 50% of Cadbury Milk Tray sales are said to occur at Christmas. Mondelez has new packaging and is introducing three new sweets to the selection to mark its 100th anniversary this Christmas.
And it is to support the brand with a £4m TV campaign.
Other new Cadbury lines for Christmas 2015 include Freddo Faces, Dairy Milk Snow Bites and Dairy Milk Oreo gift baubles and Mini Hollow Santas in five packs.
Mondelez reckons that another of its lines, Terry’s Chocolate Orange, will be in one in four Christmas stockings this year and is the number one gift to share at Christmas.
As well as four varieties of the round product, it is again offering Orange Minis in sharing bags.
A new flavour, Toffee Crunch, is joining the range for 2015.
Nestlé has repackaged some of its most popular brands for the 2015 festive season.
A spokesperson said: “With the UK’s number one Christmas brand Quality Street and the number one after-dinner mint After Eight, Nestlé has the winning formula for seasonal confectionery.”
The firm says that twistwrap confectionery is a key category at Christmas, accounting for 30% of all seasonal confectionery sales and making it into 7.8m households. A new Quality Street gift carton has been added this year. It has clear sides to show off the sweets. There is also a return for the Quality Street favourites cartons with Purely Purple Ones and Giant Strawberry packs added for 2015.
Also new to the Quality Street range is a 550g pouch designed for more informal sharing occasions.
The Christmas Tin has been given a new Christmas design for 2015.
And the brand is to be supported with TV advertising.
Aiming to attract a new generation of boxed chocolate consumers, After Eight has introduced Straws and its dark, milk and white selection will again be available throughout the Christmas season.
In the kids novelties sector Nestlé has introduced the Smarties Santa’s Chimney containing 10 boxes of mini Smarties.
A spokesperson said: “Within kids seasonal impulse, our range grew 4% in 2014 and is now worth £1.5 million.
“The Smarties Little Choc Penguin and the white chocolate Milkybar Polar Bear Cub are both back for 2015.
“Both proved a hit with mums because they are from known and trusted brands.”