At home for the holidays

Christmas is party season and many people looking forward to celebrating at home will already have begun planning their drinks purchases – and that means retailers need to get a plan in place too

One of two key Christmas campaigns for Pernod Ricard UK, ‘Mix with the Good Stuff’ encourages consumers to try making three simple cocktails at home, utilising Plymouth Gin, Absolut Vodka, Kahlua and Jameson Irish Whiskey

WHILE the weather may be bleak, the winter months offer huge potential for excitement and enjoyment, bringing with them some of the biggest drinking occasions of the year as socialising hits its peak.

For convenience retailers this should be good news, with customers stocking up (and trading up) for parties at home – but a sound strategy for the season is required to avoid being left out in the cold.

Drinks giant Diageo has identified premiumisation as a key trend for Christmas 2017 and has extended its ‘My Store Matters’ advice to help retailers drive sales across the festive period, including tapping into the ‘last minute’ opportunity presented by early supermarket closures on Christmas Eve (Sunday).

Gin in particular has been the number-one contributor to total spirits performance in the impulse channel over the last year, and its popularity shows no signs of slowing down. However, gin only accounts for 6% of total spirits in impulse vs 15% in grocery mults, so Diageo reckons there is still significant room for growth in the convenience channel, particularly during the 12 weeks of Christmas.

Claire Kendall, Diageo senior customer category manager, impulse and wholesale, said: “The timings of Christmas this year provide retailers with a great opportunity to maximise sales. While 23rd December is likely to be the busiest day in the supermarkets, Christmas Eve will be affected by early closing for a Sunday.

“This is likely to result in increased footfall in the convenience channel, with customers frequenting their local store to make last minute purchases – therefore it’s more important than ever that retailers ensure that they have perfected their range to help boost sales during this key time.”

Whether vodka, liqueurs, gin or whisky, the UK’s big drinks companies expect consumers will be looking for premium brands this Christmas

With 71% of convenience store shoppers visiting the same store at least once a week, Diageo also recommends that retailers inspire and engage customers with big, bold displays, using POS materials, new products and promotions to increase visibility and posters to drive shoppers into store.

Pernod Ricard UK argues the key to unlocking premium sales lies with cocktail culture, expected to see a boom during the festive season.

Quoting figures from the CGA Mixed Drinks report, it says demand for cocktails at home has increased 23%, with 22m cocktails searches made in the last year. Pernod Ricard UK has estimated that by increasing sales of premium spirits by 50% throughout November and December (116 bottles or 14 per week) retailers can take up to an additional £2,500.

As part of its ‘Mix with the Good Stuff’ campaign to drive sales, it has selected three simple cocktails, which are easy for shoppers to recreate at home using ingredients readily available in store: The Espresso Martini, Jameson, Ginger & Lime and The Plymouth Pink G&T.

Consumers are increasingly looking to host at home and are searching for premium ‘home-tertainment’ experiences.

James Middleton, channel director for impulse at Pernod Ricard UK, said: “Our message is simple: ignore premium this Christmas and you will miss out.

“We are seeing success within the on-trade, where premium accounts for 50% of all spirits sold, which tells us consumers are willing to spend more on premium spirits.

“In comparison, 18% of all spirits sold within the convenience channel are premium, so for retailers, it’s about upping volumes to make the most of the obvious opportunity.”

William Grant & Sons UK is similarly encouraging convenience retailers to maximise sales of premium spirits in the run-up to Christmas, with its latest ‘Get your sales on the move’ campaign.

Including a wholesaler incentive for those stocking leading brands from the distiller’s premium portfolio (including Glenfiddich, Grant’s, Russian Standard, Sailor Jerry and Three Barrels) the campaign will see one retailer win William Grant & Sons UK stock for a year (up to 70 cases), and is supported by several instant win and prize draw competition pools.

William Grant & Sons UK’s off-trade sales drive for Christmas will see every promotional bottle include an on-pack consumer competition

Martin Silver, customer marketing manager, William Grant & Sons UK, said: “This campaign allows us to build on our existing relationships with our convenience partners, and increase the distribution of our portfolio in the run-up to Christmas, a major period for both brands and retailers.

“The activity also aligns to a trend identified in the 2017 William Grant & Sons UK Market Report, which shows that consumers are increasingly looking to host at home and are searching for premium ‘home-tertainment’ experiences.”

Loch Lomond Group agrees that retailers should look to premium brands in the run-up to Christmas, drawing particular attention to single malt Scotch whiskies, which are enjoying strong growth in the convenience sector.

“Whisky is traditionally a popular choice for gifting over the festive season, and stores should stock accordingly to capitalise on this peak trading period for spirits,” said marketing manager Scott Dickson.

“Retailers should also look to capitalise on the continuing trend of consumers creating cocktails at home, particularly throughout the Christmas party season.

“Warming whisky cocktails such as an Old Fashioned are traditionally associated with the festive period and retailers should ensure they have the key ingredients in stock.

“Vodka continues to be the most popular choice for consumers over Christmas. Glen’s Vodka has been the number one take-home brand in Scotland and the second best-selling vodka in the UK for years and the range continues to be hugely popular with consumers.

“The larger 1L format is ideal for Christmas parties and for those looking to trade up at Christmas Glen’s Platinum, a premium grain 40% ABV offering from Glen’s is the perfect choice.”

He added that retailers should offer a range of bottle sizes and price marked packs (PMP) to support sales and make the most of each brand, as fractional bottle sizes continue to perform well over the winter season and offer consumers with a variety of price points.

But while premium spirits are expected to do well, they won’t be all that party-goers will be looking for, as Global Brands is keen to point out.

“With many choosing to host and attend more parties at home, there needs to be a varied offering to please the whole guest list,” said brand controller Christian Sarginson.

“Global Brands has an entire portfolio for the party season, offering a range of products from RTDs and schnapps to beer to create the perfect Christmas party.

“For those wanting to create their own cocktails, Corky’s Schnapps provides a perfect solution. With a range of five delicious flavours, Corky’s can be consumed as a single shot or mixed with other spirits and soft drinks to create simple, tasty cocktails. Being the only glitter schnapps on the market Corky’s is ideal for Christmas.”