Louise Banham spoke to three wholesalers about how they grow sales during the spooky season and the festival of lights
BW: How big an opportunity are both Diwali and Halloween?
Marcus: Diwali is a reasonably decent opportunity – particularly for our Asian cuisine products, as we carry an ethnic range. There’s a small jump in sales of those products, but it’s a good excuse to put them on promotion, and create a bit of excitement and point of difference. Halloween’s becoming increasingly popular as the years go by. It’s another opportunity to create a themed event and get a bit of a buzz going around promotions. Otherwise, they get a bit samey.
Sony: I always consider these events a huge opportunity, but they aren’t always capitalised on by wholesalers and independent retailers. In my opinion, at depot level, the industry doesn’t do enough. If you look at Tesco, it’s always six to 12 weeks ahead, whereas in cash & carries, it’s pretty much on the day. Wholesalers wait for suppliers to come and do the work and don’t act proactively. They need to sit down with their managers, plan events and get the building ready for it. And then the education needs to be passed on to retail.
Haleem: Both present really big opportunities. Diwali is especially big in London, Leicester, Birmingham and Manchester. I know it varies from region to region but it has a lot of potential. Halloween sells a lot better through retail clubs than our regular independents, but Diwali is big in wholesale.
How do you promote these holidays?
Haleem: Diwali is all about celebrating at home with family, so we try to build a display in-store to remind retailers to stock up on essentials, such as Carnation milk, Ferrero Rocher and Rubicon. Fireworks is another big area. You can’t display them but can shout about having them and put them on sale as early as possible.
Marcus: We create special displays and also have leaflets that are themed, which we mail out to customers. We put all the related products in a special area and run promotions to encourage more sales, which will be flagged up on the themed leaflets.
Sony: We don’t really get involved with Diwali in a massive way, because how much you do depends on your customer base. If you’re in a heavily populated Asian area, you can capitalise on it.
We forecast for things like Halloween about six weeks ahead of the event and our retail club will start having a feature around it. But we don’t tend to dress up the depot. We try to do link-deals on spirit bottles for Diwali and on confectionery for Halloween.
What are the big sellers for both holidays?
Haleem: For Diwali, we promote Carnation milk, Ferrero Rocher, Rubicon juice and gram flour to make sweets, as well as fireworks. For Halloween, we focus on confectionery and toffee apples.
Marcus: The Cadbury’s Screme Egg is the biggest stand-out product when it comes to Halloween – it’s the one that always comes to mind. At Diwali, we sell a lot of firecrackers and food products, because people have guests around their house to eat.
Sony: We’re much heavier on the drinks side – we sell a lot of booze for Diwali.
When do you begin creating displays?
Marcus: Typically, it would be around two to three weeks before the event.
Haleem: We normally start promotions three weeks to a month before events, but we get in fireworks in September, a month before we start focusing on Diwali. We have our displays at the front of the depot with all the must-stocks and point-of-sale.
Sony: We map out the whole year and then work six weeks ahead of events. Last year, no one did anything for the Olympics until the last minute whereas we started eight to 12 weeks early and were up 40%, while the average cash & carry was down 10-20%. The key is to start planning early.
What assistance do you offer your customers?
Sony: Our reps try to help with displays. We often pass out ready-made units.
Haleem: In October and November, we tell retailers what they should be stocking. We do specific deals through our retail clubs and encourage them to have displays and in-store theatre.
For the must-stock Halloween SKUs, check out pages 34-35 in your August issue of Better Wholesaling.