What are you going to do to close the premium alcohol sales gap in convenience stores?

“We see premium becoming the ‘standard’ pour, and standard brands declining further.” These are the words of Chris Shead from Pernod Ricard, talking about spirit sales in the UK.

Pernod’s new trade ad campaign pushes the value of cocktails in the on-trade and hammers home just how valuable they can be to convenience stores.

Chris Shead’s belief in the value of premium spirits isn’t unusual – sales of premium are growing faster than those of standard sales, and the growth is long-term.

But I can hear retailers now, whose stores are in less affluent places, away from the big city centres, student areas or ‘posh’ parts of the UK, saying ‘Premium won’t work here. Our customers are on a budget, they don’t want the fancy stuff. They don’t have cocktails, they’re simple folk’.

Just as a retailer from the north of Scotland told me three years ago that Desperados “wouldn’t work with my customer base – they’d laugh me out of my own shop”.

I understand the argument. We all saw the news that Lidl has overtaken Waitrose. People want value.

But I also know that Waitrose actually saw a 7% rise in branded goods sales; how Desperados sales have grown across the country; how places like Cleethorpes and Wellingborough have craft beer bars and tap houses; and how one of the best breweries in the country is on the outskirts of Huddersfield.

Pernod Ricard has done some maths. It believes that the promotion of three simple cocktails before Christmas could make every convenience store, on average, £2,582. That’s
a lot of money.

Will premium become the standard pour – are standard spirits on the way out? If it does, and they are, it won’t happen overnight. But just as I know that Harry Goraya managed to start selling £100 bottles of skull vodka from his store in Northfleet in north Kent, and how Singh’s Premier in Sheffield are able to get people to drive more than 40 miles for £250 bottles of champagne, it can happen wherever you are.

Fifty per cent of total sales in pubs and clubs are premium. In the convenience channel, it’s only 18%. That’s a big gap. What are you going to do to try to close it?

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