Christmas is a magical time of the year where 92% of Brits traditionally come together to spend time with their family and friends (Festive Survey 2019).

During the festive season last year, grocery sales reached £21.5bn with 1.2% growth forecast for 2020 (IDG).

With such a potentially lucrative period on the horizon for retailers, it is vital to prepare ahead of the occasion, with seasonal product displays to help maximise sales and drive revenue.

“With Christmas heralded as a time for indulgence, light and refreshing beverages, such as the Aperol Spritz and Campari Gin & Tonic are perfect for festive occasions,” says Nick Williamson, Marketing Director at Campari UK.

The Aperol Spritz also invites consumers to use the ever-popular prosecco in a different way. Prosecco remains a big seller, accounting for a majority of the 147m bottles of sparkling wine sold in the UK last year (Wine and Spirit Trade Association). Combining equal parts of prosecco followed by Aperol, a dash of soda water and a slice of orange for garnish, the Aperol Spritz creates a simple cocktail. This straightforward ‘build in the glass’ classic serve provides the perfect opportunity for consumers to premiumise the prosecco moment this Christmas and treat guests to one of the top 10 best-selling cocktails in the world (Drinks International Brand Report).

“For consumers who want to add a refreshing twist to their usual drinking habits this Christmas, the Campari Gin & Tonic elevates a tried and tested combination, offering a unique look and bittersweet taste for the season,” adds Williamsson. “This intriguing and unusual take on a classic is also a sure way to bring Christmas cheer to the occasion with its vibrant red hue, perfectly complementing festive celebrations.”

In addition, the Negroni is a cult classic and a great option that will give Christmas moments a premium feel. A simple combination of Campari, gin and red vermouth – retailers can inspire shoppers to make this renowned cocktail at home, helping to add a touch of elegance to a special occasion.

With 42% of shoppers looking to be inspired in-store at Christmas through recipe ideas and inspiration over the season (IDG), retailers have a unique opportunity to upsell during the festive months. Christmas is a time when people are open to making more premium purchases to elevate the occasion so by prominently displaying high-value items such as branded spirits, retailers have an ideal opportunity to increase sales value.

“With Christmas billed as a time for ‘out of the ordinary’ purchases, retailers have greater opportunity to cross-sell based on their customers’ existing shopping habits – for example, suggesting Aperol as an additional purchase for those already shopping for Prosecco, or recommending adding Campari as a seasonal change for those looking to buy gin and tonic components,” suggests Williamson. “In preparation for the festive season, retailers should stock up on premium options sooner rather than later, to ensure they have a strong range that caters for consumers looking to enhance their Christmas purchasing experience. This will also help retailers to maximise the festive occasion and encourage spontaneous purchases by highlighting the ’treats’ that may not have been on a shopper’s list.”

James Stocker, Marketing Director at Halewood Artisanal Spirits, comments: “During lockdown we’ve seen more and more consumers looking to recreate the bar experience at home. This means that people are becoming much more experimental with their drinks choices, whether that’s with the types of spirits they are buying, or as they look for innovative new flavoured variants which can be used to make impressive, yet easy serves from home.”

As the trend for flavoured gins shows no sign of slowing down, Whitley Neill, the UK’s number one premium gin brand (Nielsen) provides a great opportunity to tap into this with its full range of flavours, from Rhubarb & Ginger to Raspberry and Blood Orange.

Whitley Neill gins can easily be mixed with tonic for a simple at home serve, or even with Prosecco for something a little more special. Highlighting more creative serves like the ‘Ginsecco’ and merchandising the products next to each other is also a great way of inspiring customers and encouraging additional impulse purchases.

Whitley Neill’s Limited Edition flavours, such as the recently launched Brazilian Lime and also Strawberry & Black Pepper, tap into the latest flavour trends, all under the trusted Whitley Neill brand name – providing an exciting new proposition for consumers, and a great gifting option.

We’re also seeing a growing trend for flavoured and spiced rums – the category is currently worth £470 million, and seeing double digit growth (Nielsen).

Halewood’s Dead Man’s Fingers Spiced Rum range, which recently saw the additional of new Mango, Hazelnut, Passionfruit, Raspberry, Lime and Pineapple flavours provides retailers with the perfect opportunity to tap into this trend. All new flavours mix perfectly with lemonade for simple serves, or can be used as a base for a range of cocktails. This is ideal for shoppers who have become increasingly experimental with their drinks choices over the last few months and will be looking to continue this experimentation into the festive season.

“As consumers are increasingly using social media as a key tool to connect with brands, we will be executing our biggest ever social media plans for Whitley Neill and Dead Man’s Fingers,” adds Stocker. “Again, this is centred on helping consumers understand more about our different flavoured variants and how to enjoy them at home. This more inspirational approach will also be reflected with the POS materials that we have available for retailers.”

Jessica Smith, Marketing Executive at Continental Wine and Food Ltd, comments: “Within the off-trade, the ‘ginaissance’ continues with flavoured gin accounting for a third of overall gin sales and the market being worth almost £1 billion. However, with an increasing number of launches in 2020 and brands reacting to this opportunity quite quickly with NPD, we predict rum to be the next ‘big thing’ that retailers should be aware of.”

Statistics show for the first time in several years that the growth over 2019’s Christmas period was strongest in the rum category with 6% volume growth and 7% value growth over the festive period (WSTA). British consumers’ willingness to explore new drink experiences helped the initial gin boom, and we are starting to see the rum category benefit from a similar impact as producers start to offer something interesting, exciting and fun.

There has also been a significant growth in the sale of liqueurs over the past 12 months with non-cream liqueurs selling 15.1 million bottles, showing volume and stable value gains when compared with the same 12 weeks that started 2019 (WSTA).

This category covers an array of different colours and flavours making liqueur drinks very desirable and ‘Instagrammable’ which is ideal for the new, younger consumers for which it targets.

These two trends paired together to create a rum liqueur lovechild presents itself with a whole host of innovative opportunities which is fundamental for the growth of any category, and includes educating consumers about the new and fresh ways to enjoy this new drink.

“We have been working hard on NPD at CWF and we have begun to tap into this trend by recently launching a brand-new range of flavoured Rum Liqueurs under the name of Jolly Roger,” adds Smith.

Jolly Roger is the traditional English name for the flags flown to identify a pirate ship and it is a name well-related to rum because of the history behind pirate ships having barrels of the stuff on board.

The skull and crossbones has subtly been incorporated into the logo and is sat on a treasure map background so the product style can be clearly identified and brand personality shines through.

Typically, a rum liqueur is defined by vibrant but complementary flavours which are added to classic rum notes such as rich spices or honeyed sweetness.

All three flavours of Jolly Roger are infused with authentic Caribbean rum and include Vanilla, Honeycomb and Roasted Pineapple. The sweet and smooth liquids are suitable for Vegans, have an ABV of 20% and can be served over ice, mixed into cocktails or consumed with a favourite mixer.

“Of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without mulled wine,” Smith continues. “This is a firm favourite amongst consumers and there are several ways to keep your sales consistent over the festive period. We recommend making the most of the interest in mulled wine all the way to Christmas; after the spike in panic-buying during Covid-19, we predict consumers will start shopping even earlier this year so start introducing stock around mid-September all the way through to the beginning of January and ensure that mulled wine is clearly displayed using POS or at the front of your merchandising. You should also take care when selecting your mulled wine range – we recommend choices from entry-level through to premium.”

Harvest Fruits Mulled Wine and Winter Warmer are two of CWF’s best sellers. Both can be enjoyed either warm or cold and are blended with the finest ingredients to give a character of subtle cinnamon, clove spices and zesty citrus fruits. Harvest Fruits is 5.5% ABV and Winter Warmer is 8% ABV.

“We know that during the height of the pandemic, consumers were stockpiling goods out of pure panic that retailers would eventually run out,” says Smith.

This has calmed down significantly, however the virus has accelerated the move to both shopping local and shopping online as people are still wary to venture out to store.

“If your store isn’t set up for e-commerce, we recommend being very active on your social pages as screen time is still at an all-time high and you can really drive foot-fall by having a presence and talking to your customers online,” adds Smith. “Enforce safety measures such as one-way systems and go contactless so your store is as controlled as possible. Showing that you are dedicated to making your customers feel as comfortable as possible and investing in their safety will put them at ease and encourage them to shop with you as opposed to online or with any other retailer.”

Norbert Jozsa, Head of Category and Insight – Europe, at Accolade Wines, comments: “The Christmas period is incredibly valuable to wine sales, approximately 27% of the year’s value goes through the 12-week Christmas period (Nielsen), so it’s a huge opportunity for retailers to make the most of.”

Brands still remain important and are key to attracting people to the category, offering familiarity and trust.

“We’re confident that shoppers will still be looking to trade up as we approach Christmas and they look for something special to enjoy during the festivities,” says Jozsa. “Retailers can depend on Accolade Wines to drive their wine sales over the all-important Christmas trading period when consumers are looking for brands they can trust.”

Accolade’s portfolio of wines includes Hardys, Mud House, Jam Shed and Echo Falls.

We see 1.5x more wine sales and a 2.75x increase in fizz sales during Christmas compared to the rest of the year (KWP) – as well as new customers entering the category. We also see shoppers pay a premium for quality wine at Christmas with average price per litre 4% higher than normal.

What’s more, still wine is the favourite drink to have with Christmas dinner (KWP) and it’s therefore vital retailers look out for the latest promotions to amplify these in-store.

“To win at Christmas you must understand the key demand moments during the period, such as relaxation times, as well as social and party occasions,” Jozsa continues. “A wide variety of drinks are consumed at this time of year, but some are more suited to different occasions. For example, wine lends itself best to eating and relaxing occasions – relaxing at home is the top occasion cited for having a drink over the Christmas period.”

Lockdown has seen many drinking occasions shift back into our homes, and there have been +7m additional off-trade occasions (Nielsen). During this period, we have seen wine benefit more than other categories, due to its heartland occasions, such as staying in as a couple and as an everyday drink, naturally becoming more important during lockdown.

It is still uncertain what Christmas will look like within the on-trade, but it is likely that the off-trade alcohol sector will benefit as we see an increase in in-home occasions. For this reason, Accolade is expecting a bumper Christmas for wine sales, with more at home meals and relaxing scenarios than last year.

A key theme of last year’s Christmas was uncertainty, with shoppers holding out from spending until the last minute, including a surge for wine sales.

“We expect something similar this year due to the current situation, with the main spending to take place in a smaller window of time,” comments Jozsa. “We think people will be prioritising family and relaxation time this year, as well as putting more emphasis on making Christmas dinner special – all areas where wine can complement.”

This Christmas, Hardys is so certain that shoppers will love its wine that it is offering a money back guarantee. With over 165+ years of wine making and over 9,000 global awards, Hardys provide consumers with certainty in their wine choice, every time.

Running from 1st October to 31st December, the guarantee is available across all 75cl SKUs, with the offer advertised across 6.5m neck tags in the grocery, convenience, and wholesale channel. The neck tags will make it clear the promotion is run by Hardys, not by the retailer. The campaign will also be supported by in-store POS, out of home advertising and through social media.

The campaign will offer shoppers the reassurance they are looking for, when choosing that perfect wine this Christmas. Hardys is loved by 4.2m UK households and is the most frequently purchased wine brand in the UK, as well as having the highest percentage of repeat shoppers (Kantar).

This winter, Jam Shed will also bring back its mulled wine recipe neck tags, available on its Shiraz product in grocery, convenience, and wholesale. Jam Shed Shiraz makes an idea base for mulled wine and the recipe is an easy way of creating a special Christmas moment at home.

Accolade will be supporting the campaign this year with instore and digital activity, including online recipe videos to follow at home.

Jam Shed is the UK’s fastest growing top-50 wine brand and has reported +112.7% value growth year-on-year (Nielsen).

Toby Lancaster, Category and Shopper Marketing Director at Heineken UK, comments: “Christmas presents one of the biggest purchasing occasions of the year, and with traditional events and activities potentially not able to take place this season, it’s likely that consumers will be spending more time at home, celebrating with friends and family. Christmas 2020 is therefore likely to present an even greater opportunity, with retailers keen to maximise on sales. As such, retailers will be looking to prepare ahead of time, so wholesalers should ensure they’ve got a strong range in place to make the most of this opportunity.”

In line with the We’re Worth It driver of Heineken’s Greenpaper, Christmas is a key occasion for shoppers to treat themselves, as well as friends and family to more premium offerings. This is particularly the case when consumers are spending an evening at home, which is likely to be more popular this Christmas than in previous years.

“Wholesalers should therefore ensure they’re offering the right range of premium alternatives for retailers looking to cater for the trade up opportunity,” suggests Lancaster.

As one of the fastest growing segments in the market – currently in 108% growth (Nielsen) – the no and low category will play a key role over the festive period. Driving this has been the shift in drinking habits, particularly amongst Gen Z shoppers, who are increasingly looking for options to moderate. Retailers will be looking to harness additional sales from shoppers who are keen to “Live Better” without compromising on taste, so wholesalers should ensure they’re stocking a range of No and Low products to facilitate this.

“When merchandising their range, wholesalers should ensure they’re getting the basics right by stocking a staple range, such as Foster’s, Strongbow Original and Strongbow Dark Fruit – currently the number one and two line extensions in the category,” Lancaster recommends. “New for this year, wholesalers should also look to stock Strongbow Rosé, which was launched in March 2020, meeting the demand for lightly flavoured pink and rosé flavours.”

The new cider, with its signature refreshing taste is now the number one rosé cider in the category (Nielsen). It has also been successful in attracting new consumers to the category, with 33% (Kantar) of sales coming from shoppers who did not buy cider in the same period last year.

“With shoppers looking to trade up as a treat at Christmas time, retailers will be looking to capitalise on the premiumisation trend,” Lancaster continues. “As such, wholesalers should consider options such Birra Moretti, Amstel, Old Mout and Heineken. Heineken – a trusted brand, associated with quality – has always been well received by consumers at Christmas.”

This year, Heineken will benefit from additional exposure, thanks to its role in the release of the latest James Bond movie – No Time to Die – in November.

For no and low options, Heineken® 0.0 has swiftly become the fastest growing brand in the segment, with growth of 58% (Nielsen).

Jess Markowski, Convenience Sales Director at Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I, comments: “A key trend when preparing for the Christmas period is premiumisation, with shoppers willing to indulge over the festive season and spend more on premium beers. But it’s not just in December that consumers are looking to treat themselves. The demand for premium options begins in mid-October and runs all the way through to Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. As such, savvy retailers will start stocking up on premium options now to make the most of this demand.”

Stella Artois is consistently the number one alcohol brand at Christmas (Nielsen), making it a stand-out choice for retailers when stocking up during the festive season. The Artois Brewery crafted this festive beer in 1926 as a Christmas gift to the people of Leuven. That special batch was the first to officially include the name “Stella” – meaning star in Latin – and the brand now continues to pay homage to this occasion with its iconic star design on each bottle.

Budweiser is another must-stock Christmas option – it is the number two most valuable beer brand in UK off-trade (Nielsen) and was the number three alcohol brand at Christmas last year (Nielsen).

In 2019, another clear winner throughout this period was world beer, with value up 14.2% in the lead up to Christmas (Nielsen), so retailers can expect a similar trend this year. Corona is the number one world lager in the off-trade by value, growing 11% YOY(Nielsen), so is a great premium choice for retailers looking to tap into this category.

“As well as thinking about the range of products on offer in store, retailers should also be thinking about where these products sit and how they are merchandised,” Markowski suggests. “Cross-merchandising makes it easier for shoppers to get everything they need in one place – which will be particularly important this year in order to make the shopping experience as convenient and stress-free as possible, and helps increase average spend. Retailers should bring together essentials such as ice, beer and party food, as well as snacks such as crisps and dips to help create a wider package offering. With its Belgian heritage, Stella Artois would also perfectly complement festive buffet favourites such as charcuterie and cheese.”

Moderation has been a hot topic in recent years, and we’ve seen consumers continue this habit over recent months, with a quarter of British drinkers cutting down on their alcohol consumption during lockdown (YouGov). Low and no alcohol is no longer just a trend, but a conscious lifestyle choice for many, so retailers need to ensure they’re offering sufficient alternatives during the festive season. In response to this, Budweiser has launched Budweiser Zero and Stella Artois Alcohol-Free. Both enable retailers to tap into this market and provide consumers with alcohol-free options for their favourite beers that do not compromise on taste or quality and help cater for this new lifestyle.

Nigel McNally, Managing Director, Brookfield Drinks, comments: “Total UK off-trade annual beer sales were up 2.3% in Q1 of 2020 vs. prior year. World beer is one of the star performers within the beer category, growing at +14% YOY. In 2019, world beer grew by £112m, driven by shoppers buying more world beer or adding world beer on top of their existing beer repertoire.”

Brookfield Drinks is the principle distributor in the UK for Super Bock and have seen substantial growth in Super Bock sales this year; Super Bock are up +124.9% for Q1 of 2020 vs. prior year.

Renowned for its high quality and unique flavour, Super Bock is available in a 4x330ml, 6x330ml and 660ml format. The best-selling pack format for Super Bock is the 660ml bottle, perfect for sharing.

Recent statistics have shown the continued need for authenticity and high-quality ingredients within world beers and lager, with consumers willing to pay a higher price for these premium offerings (SIBA Craft Beer Report).

“To maximise sales during the Christmas period, retailers should consider placing suitable food options next to their drinks offering; this will appeal to consumers grab and go mentality and will provide the ultimate convenience for the shopper,” suggests McNally. “The need to provide convenience for the consumer is increasingly important now that people’s lifestyles continue to get busier; and this is more so the case around the crazy run up to Christmas. In terms of craft beers such as kestrel, the perfect pairing would be items such as nuts, crisps, cheese, or ready meals such as curry. These are also hugely popular items which people will be looking to purchase around the festive season.”

Amy Burgess, Senior Trade Communications Manager at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), comments: “Christmas is the biggest moment in the calendar for retailers, wholesalers and shoppers alike, as families and friends get together and celebrate with delicious food and drink at home. Even though this Christmas might look a little different to usual, we still expect consumers to make the most of it – whether they celebrate together in-person or virtually. With a fifth of consumers planning to visit a convenience store to pick up Christmas food and drink, Christmas presents a big opportunity for independent wholesalers to grow their sales. Many convenience stores have gained new shoppers this year and meeting their needs at Christmas is an important way to cement these new customer relationships and drive long-term loyalty into 2021 and beyond.”

Soft drinks sales grew by nearly 4% over the Christmas period last year (Nielsen) and, with an estimated 6.1million people now choosing not to consume alcohol, it’s more important than ever for wholesalers to ensure they invest in their soft drinks offering. Key segments at Christmas include cola, mixers and premium adult soft drinks. This includes the Coca-Cola range – Coca-Cola zero sugar, Coca-Cola original taste and Diet Coke – which has long been synonymous with Christmas.

Coca-Cola’s Christmas plan for 2020 consists of limited editions, on-pack festive graphics and consumer marketing.

“As households celebrate together over the festive period, wholesalers should make sure they offer a wide range of larger sharing formats,” Burgess suggests.

There was a growth in sales of large PET bottles and multipack cans of soft drinks during lockdown as more people socialised in the home and these packs continue to enjoy double digit growth now (Nielsen) – a trend expected to continue for the foreseeable future to Christmas and beyond.

To help independents create a point of difference and tap into this demand, this year CCEP has reduced the recommended price points for its range of PMPs across its colas portfolio, including larger formats to enjoy at home.

The 1.75l bottles of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar – including the popular cherry and vanilla-flavoured variants – and Diet Coke are now available in a £1.75 PMP, and 1.5l bottles of Coca-Cola Original Taste and Coca-Cola Original Taste Cherry are now available in a £1.95 PMP. The 2l bottles of Fanta and Dr Pepper are available in a £1.89 PMP, with 2l Sprite PMP available at £1.69.

“Wholesalers should allocate the most space to best-sellers including double facings where needed – to avoid running out of stocks during peak times of the day. Ensure you increase space for larger packs for at-home sharing occasions,” Burgess suggests. “Stock a wide range of low and no-sugar variants. Position these alongside great tasting original alternatives, so it’s easy for shoppers to choose the one they want e.g. Coca-Cola zero sugar and Diet Coke alongside Coca-Cola original taste.”

Jo Sinisgalli, Gifting Senior Brand Manager at Mars Wrigley UK, comments: “While the way Brits will be spending Christmas and the holidays remains uncertain, they can have a silent night’s sleep knowing that Mars Wrigley UK will be providing some much-needed cheer and sparkle to any festive feast this year – be it in person or over Zoom!”

Newly launched Galaxy Caramel Truffles (RRP £4.99 – 212g), available market wide from early September, have a smooth caramel and velvety truffle centre, making the perfect gift or addition to a Christmas party. As the number one confectionery NPD for Christmas 2019, Galaxy Truffles is back again and is now available in a large 329g gift box format alongside Mars Wrigley’s original premium truffle offering, Maltesers Truffles.

The UK’s best-selling chocolate tub, Celebrations is available in various formats, from 240g at RRP £3.31 to 650g at £10.99 RRP, making it a versatile addition to the Christmas shop, be it for a gift or to be shared together at home.

Mars is also launching Milky Way and Skittles Selection Boxes to further tap into the sharing rituals of the holidays and appeal to the classic confectionery fans.

Alongside the new and favourite gifting options, Mars is also extending the premium offering to advent calendars, with the launch of the new Galaxy Truffles Advent Calendar and the return of Maltesers Truffles Advent Calendar. A decadent daily treat, the Advent Calendar is a festive way to enjoy Galaxy and Maltesers Truffles.

This year, the 265g Maltesers Christmas Mix pouches is back again and will contain 15 SKUs in total including a selection of Maltesers Buttons, as well as the Maltesers Reindeer (which has remained the number one best-selling confectionery treat at Christmas) and core Maltesers packets, so plenty to go around for the whole family.

Nestlé Confectionery is launching KitKat Santa, a Santa-shaped chocolate bar filled with a rich chocolatey centre and crunchy wafer pieces. It will be available in a 29g impulse format (RRP £0.65), a 5 bar multipack (RRP £3.00) and a 66g bag of individually wrapped mini Santas (RRP £1.00). The new product will be supported by a £1 million media campaign.

Also, brand new for the category this Christmas is the Aero Dreamy White Snowbubbles 80g bag (RRP £1.00). Each bubble consists of a smooth half milk chocolate and half white shell, with a light, bubbly vanilla centre. The launch will capitalise on the brand’s popularity, which has seen Aero grow +26% in the last 12 months and +33.6% so far in 2020, to become the fastest growing confectionery brand in the top 20 (IRI). It has also attracted two million more new consumers year on year (IRI). Aero’s popular chocolate blocks will also enjoy a festive refresh with a seasonal new design ensuring they stand-out on shelf.

Quality Street will be supported by a new advertising campaign. Quality Street continues to offer consumers a format for all occasions, including the 240g carton, 450g pouch, 650g tub, and 1kg tin. This year the 1kg tin will take inspiration from the brand’s 2019 vibrant refresh for its annual new design. Convenience retailers should focus on the must stock Quality Street 240g carton (RRP £2.99), as well as the 650g tub (RRP £7.74) which is a format synonymous with Christmas.

Susan Nash, Trade Communications Manager at Mondelez International, comments: “We would advise retailers to split Christmas into three phases to enable them to stock the right range at the right time.”

The season begins in September and October, when stores can kick off with a ‘Season Start’ for sharing confectionery as the nights draw in. The opportunity in these earlier months is huge, with a third of early season shoppers accounting for over half of total season spend (Nielsen).

“To make the most of it, we recommend retailers signpost the season early, focusing on Self Eat and Sharing products such as Cadbury Heroes and the new Cadbury Roses by Emma Bridgewater,” adds Nash.

In November, the season begins for shoppers with the ‘Countdown to Christmas’ so retailers should reflect this in store with advent calendars and tree decorations. As a third of under 34 year olds do their Christmas shopping in local shops (IGD), retailers should get creative with their displays to bring the season to life in store. This can also help to drive sales, as 19% of shoppers only purchase Christmas chocolate from a secondary display (IGD).

“Chocolate gift boxes are the biggest selling products at this time, so we would advise retailers to only stock the bestselling Advent Calendars and replace them with gift and selection boxes as we enter December and the big day approaches,” says Nash. “At this stage, retailers can deliver ‘Seasonal Christmas Magic’, where shoppers are increasingly looking to trade up, by stocking up on gifting and selection packs to drive maximum sales from festive shoppers.”

Levi Boorer, Customer Development Director at Ferrero, comments: “Confectionery represents a category that has something many others are not as fortunate on: resilience.”

December 2019 itself was particularly strong, with the category seeing growth at 5.5% (Nielsen).

The Main Gift confectionery purchase was the beacon of light during a tough market in 2019, and Self Treat in impulse saw solid growth of +2.8% (IRI). The success of the Main Gift purchase was down to existing shoppers making more trips than the previous year; and again, those trips in general were being made online rather than in physical stores.

“Christmas is a critical sales period for retailers and despite a year-on-year slowdown in performance and continued challenges to consumer confidence, brands and retailers need to get creative to drive early basket spend and remain visible at more shopper touchpoints,” says Boorer. “It’s vital for retailers to focus heavily on their product phasing. For confectionery, September through to early October is a vital ‘Early Bird’ period; it’s used to let shoppers know that ‘Christmas is coming’. The segments of focus are usually Sharing, Main Gift (smaller packs) and Self Treat.”

Next up is the ‘Build Up’ phase – throughout mid-October to the end of November – a period that is worth £227m, so it’s crucial to the trade. This is when shoppers will start to purchase in earnest. The segments of focus are: Stocking Fillers and Advent Calendars, Main Gifts and Sharing.

Finally, as we enter December, we’re in the ‘Main Event’ phase – the final push that is worth £270m. Much like previous years, the final four weeks in December 2019 were key, with 46% of confectionery sales going through in that period (Nielsen). Shoppers typically behave quite differently during this time, with an air of ‘panic mode’. Segments of focus are: Main Gift, Sharing and Stocking Fillers.

Ferrero recently commissioned research from KAM media to find what convenience retailers’ attitudes towards Christmas confectionery were, and how they had been impacted by COVID-19.

Almost three quarters (71%) are remaining optimistic and believe shoppers will continue to support their local stores by spending the same or more on seasonal products as a result of lockdown.

“Social distancing has made people sentimental and more appreciative of their loved ones, so we’re expecting to see increased acts of kindness and gifting, as shoppers look to add a bit of joy through moments of generosity,” comments Boorer.

The results also showed that many retailers remain undeterred in their planning processes, with 50% of convenience store retailers planning their seasonal confectionery offering 1-2 months in advance of Christmas. “It’s therefore even more important that retailers ensure they are stocking a strong core range to appeal to shoppers throughout the autumnal and winter seasonal confectionery trading spikes,” says Boorer.

“Promotions are important in the run up to Christmas and should be planned out carefully and by subcategory,” suggests Boorer. “While the final week in December is vital to securing the sales of seasonal products, promotional activity should start as early as September to provide shoppers with the right products throughout the season.”

Ferrero recommends promoting a range of boxed chocolates around September to kick off the season – with Diwali in October, there’s a great opportunity to make the most of the sales potential during the celebratory period.

Once Diwali and Halloween have passed, Ferrero encourages retailers to promote a range of advent calendars throughout November to capitalise on demand for those items being very time sensitive leading into December. November is also an important time to drive sales of stocking fillers – everything from selection packs to novelty figures and shapes.

“Retailers should start to promote stocking fillers from mid-November through until the end of December to take advantage of when seasonal purchases are at their highest,” adds Boorer. “Lastly, we advise retailers to start promoting larger, premium boxed chocolates in December to make the most of those shoppers looking for the perfect gift.”

Even with the uncertainty we are facing for Christmas 2020, with it being difficult to predict what position we will be in regarding social distancing and celebrations, Ferrero still expects the demand for confectionery products, including advent calendars and main gifts in particular, to remain. Shoppers are keen to spend more time with their loved ones, having spent so much time apart in recent months, and may be looking to premium formats that enhance those experiences and to help them to celebrate.

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