Christmas and New Year involve many get-togethers and parties. Olivia Gagan looks at how to maximise sales in the countdown to the festive period

Whether shoppers are stocking up on soft drinks to relax with at home, or hunting for booze as festive events approach, the run-up to Christmas is a crucial time for sales.

We take a look at what is new for the coming festive season, and how can you make sure you gain your slice of this lucrative market.

Upscale soft drinks

Christmas may traditionally be a time for indulgence, but people are increasingly opting to reduce their booze consumption. As well as drivers who need a non-alcoholic option at festive events, younger shoppers are also seeking out soft drinks with which to celebrate.

Abstaining from alcohol does not mean forgoing premium options, however. Amy Burgess, trade communications manager at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), believes you should seek out upscale soft drinks that are presented to look and taste like a treat. It can help teetotal Christmas revellers feel comfortable and catered for while others are drinking the harder stuff, she advises.

“For teetotallers, present consumers with a more exciting change from their day-to-day soft drink choice for a special occasion,” she says. “Adult soft drinks offer consumers a sophisticated alternative to alcohol that they are happy to consume while others may be drinking beer, wine or cocktails. Appletiser, for instance, appeals to those looking for a sophisticated option on its own or as part of a mocktail.”

Simon Gray, founder and managing director of Boost Drinks, agrees. “Although alcohol is a huge part of any wholesaler’s Christmas stock, we have noticed that there is a growing demand for alcohol-free alternatives,” he says. “There has been a steady increase in teetotalism among 16-24-year-olds, who are now less likely to drink alcohol than any other age group, according to a recent study by the Office for National Statistics.

“In addition, wholesalers should ensure they have a good offering of soft-drink formats for retailers to choose from.”

Shoppers will seek out sharing sizes as they entertain and relax more at home, Burgess says. “Tapping into TV moments such as Christmas specials can help to increase soft drinks sales. Sharing formats such as 2l PET bottles are popular choices for these occasions, so making sure shelves are stocked up with these can help your retailers make the most of the opportunity.”

At-home cocktails

The festive season is still a key time for alcohol, however. Fine-tuning your offer to meet trends will pay off, says Christian Sarginson, brand controller at Global Brands. “Christmas 2017 saw a growth in liqueurs. This is probably due to the popularity of cocktails. This year has seen a boom; people now regularly mix them at home, with many attempting to replicate experiences they have had in the on-trade. Convenient, ready-to-serve cocktails will also be sought-after this festive season.”

CCEP’s Burgess concurs. She says: “There is a trend for recreating cocktails and bar-quality drinks at home to bring a sense of occasion to a night in.”

She advises offering associated cocktail products, too. “Garnishes and botanicals are becoming more popular as people look to expand their homemade cocktail range or jazz up a classic drink like a gin and tonic,” Burgess adds.

Embrace one-offs and sparkle

The festive season is a time for fun, and this extends to what we are drinking. Novelty and one-off, limited-edition formats are a great way to shake up your usual range and provide your clients with products that will set them apart from the competition.

Boost’s Gray notes: “Limited-edition products perform extremely well in attracting retailers who want to try something new, and they offer wholesalers a great way to generate excitement through creative stand-out depot displays.”

Perhaps one of the biggest festive trends is for an unlikely drink addition: edible glitter. Global’s Sarginson notes that the Corky’s Schnapps brand introduced three glitter-infused flavours to meet demand for sparkly tipples. Soft drinks producers are getting in on the act, too. Phil Sanders, Britvic’s GB at-home commercial director, says: “Last year, limited-edition J2O variant Glitter Berry took the market by storm and climbed the ranks to be the third-bestselling SKU in the adult soft drinks category over the festive period, according to Nielsen data. It made a huge impact.”

CCEP’s Burgess, meanwhile, says the success of limited-edition, reissue and glitter variants is partly explained by how they look on-screen. “Social media is having an impact, with people looking for trendy products they can photograph and share on Facebook or Instagram,” she says.

“Because of this, factors such as stylish packaging, like the iconic Coca-Cola glass bottle, can influence the difference between whether someone buys or not, especially during the festive season. Such formats will be popular among retailers – and form a key opportunity for wholesalers to maximise sales.”

Multipacks and premium

The festive season is also a time for consumers to relax with a beer, whether at Christmas parties or at home. Molson Coors’ main tip is to prioritise mid-packs. “Christmas is a particularly key time of year to introduce or expand the mid-pack range,” a spokesperson says. “For example, Carling 12x440ml is a great addition to any store owner’s category range, as they know it will encourage shoppers to trade up during their visit. Wholesalers should take advantage of the boost in mid-pack sales at Christmas and increase their stock to satisfy demand from store owners.”

Offering a carefully chosen range of lesser-known brands continues to be a key strategy for driving sales, the spokesperson adds: “Premiumisation continues to be a key trend in the beer and cider category with world beer, premium lager and craft beer all seeing significant growth. The largest value growth is being driven by world beers.

“At Christmas, shoppers like to premiumise and indulge in small treats. It is therefore crucial to stock a manageable range of premium and craft beer to encourage those willing to trade up during the festive period.”

Takeaway points

1. Look to bestselling brands – Find ones that are driving sales, particularly products that are the focus of Christmas advertising or marketing campaigns.

2. Offer variety – Stocking multiple special Christmas editions, be they new packaging or product launches, is key. The success of glitter drinks is an area to look at this year.

3. Focus on sharing formats – The likes of 2l PET bottles or 330ml can multipacks are particularly important. Christmas social occasions mean sharing formats are particularly important.

4. Premium and unique – The festive period is a time when shoppers will be prepared to try something new, so be sure to offer them something a little bit different.

5. At-home cocktails – This is an area worth catering to, as it offers chances to cross-sell spirits, mixers, cans, botanicals and garnishes.

Retailer viewpoints 

Vicky Onions
Vicky Onions, Vicky’s Convenience Store, Bromsgrove, Kent

“Christmas is our biggest period for drink sales. We will stock more brandy and rum, because customers come in and specifically ask for those. Energy drink sales spike in this period, too – Red Bull and Monster White, in particular. We also find that Pepsi Max, Coca-Cola and Diet Coke all are crucial Christmas and party products.”

Meryl Williams, Pikes Newsagents, Porthmadog, Gwynedd

“We do not sell alcohol, and only stock soft drinks. It is the 500ml Cokes and litre bottles of water that sell best for us over Christmas and New Year period. We find people go to multiples for their big Christmas drink shop, and then visit us to pick up things to keep them hydrated while they are out and about.”

Garry Haigh, Keystore Peterhead Motors, Aberdeenshire

“Soft drinks sales really ramp up around Christmas – we sell more classics, such as cola and lemonade. I do not sell a lot of additional mixers. We introduce packs for Christmas alcohol gifts, and craft beers sell well as part of this. We have the full range of Brewdog varieties, for instance, which have been a great addition to our range.”

Elfed Roberts, Spar Abersoch and Nefyn, Gwynedd

“It is hard at Christmas to compete with the big multiples, so we have to offer something a little bit different to encourage people to shop. Last Christmas, we focused our offer on premium gins and high-quality, unusual tonics. We had a premium gin display and a dedicated prosecco fridge.”

Supplier viewpoints

Trystan Farnworth,
Commercial director,
convenience and
impulse, Britvic

“To maximise sales, make sure you are able to cater to all occasions and festivities. Make sure you stock up with a range of popular brands in a variety of formats, including single-serve, sharer and multipack.

“Offer cross-category promotions by linking up relevant categories such as soft drinks with snacks or spirits, too.

“The festive period can be an expensive time. Customers want bargains, so encourage sales by using promotions and pricemarked packs to show you have the best possible value for money.”

Chris Shead
Chris Shead,
Off-trade channel director, Pernod Ricard UK

“The Christmas and New Year period is a huge opportunity for wholesalers and the convenience retailers that purchase from them.

“It is also a time of year that they can get right by doing three simple things. First, ensure premium spirits get proportionately more space in depot than standard. Second, increase spend by advertising cocktail serves and the mixers needed to create them. Finally, ensure new products are listed in order to excite consumers looking for new flavours and tastes.”

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