chazDespite the continuing recession and the ongoing uncertainty about what’s going to happen to the UK economy under the coalition government, there’s one thing that wholesale managers can be sure of over the next few months. Christmas is coming round again in a few months’ time, and as always it’s going to be an extremely big business opportunity, as consumers do their best to forget about their troubles and enjoy themselves with friends and family.

So, here’s a puzzle that’s worthy of a Christmas cracker! When should cash ‘n’ carries and delivered wholesalers start promoting and selling Christmas lines to their neighbourhood retail customers?

It’s a fair question. At one extreme the big department stores open early for Christmas and launch their festive lines in mid-August, after the summer sales. And at the other end, the nation’s independent retailers typically don’t wake up to Christmas in stocking and merchandising terms until November.

According to one major confectionery supplier, Christmas is ready to launch in neighbourhood stores as soon as the Halloween and Bonfire Night displays have finished. The point there is that in many cases these are stores that tend to have limited space for back-up stock, even if it has been ordered early at promotional prices: if they do have room, they certainly don’t want cash tied up in stock, and so rely on last minute supplies of key well-supported brands.

Christmas is an all-important peak selling period for a number of grocery sectors for which gifting becomes a primary reason for consumers to purchase in neighbourhood stores at this time of year. That’s particularly so of confectionery, drinks, stationery and toiletries. With the help of their delivered wholesalers and cash ‘n’ carries in supplying gift packs and so on, neighbourhood retailers can turn themselves quite easily into one-stop shops for a range of Christmas gifts in these categories that will satisfy their customers’ last-minute festive needs, from stocking fillers to main presents.

Appealing packaging and added value products with gift boxes or wallets are instrumental in helping retailers make more margin at Christmas. Confectionery is a case in point. Christmas wouldn’t be the same without chocolate treats and gifts, and consumers increasingly look to the convenience sector to make impulse confectionery purchases for gifting.

Sharing confectionery is a key product for convenience stores over Christmas – not only do customers pick them up as last-minute presents to put under the tree, they also choose them for sharing with family and friends.

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