The 12 weeks before Christmas make up 27% of spirit sales

The 12 weeks leading up to Christmas are responsible for 27% of spirit sales, making it one of the most important times of the year for offers.

The 12 weeks leading up to Christmas are responsible for 27% of spirit sales, making it
one of the most important times of the year to get a great offer in place, writes 
Joseph Lee.

Prepare for parties

Christmas means party season, so you should make sure you stock a range of brands that help make your customers’ evenings special.

This means you can drive spend by trading shoppers up to premium brands or products they might not have tried at any other time of the year. Faith Holland, head of category & insights at Diageo, says: “Christmas is the time of the year when they’re open to try new things and new brands.”

By making recommendations you could trade someone up to a more premium brand, not just for Christmas, but for the rest of the year.

One way to encourage experimentation is by promoting cocktail recipes. James Middleton, impulse channel director at Pernod Ricard, says making cocktails at home is a growing trend.

“Demand for cocktails at home has increased by 23%, with 22 million ‘cocktail’ searches made online in the past year,” he says.

The company is launching a campaign, ‘Mix With The Good Stuff’, to capitalise on the trend, with PoS offering simple recipes such as an Espresso Martini (Absolut, Kahlua and coffee), a blend of Jameson, ginger ale and lime, and a Plymouth Gin and tonic.

It aims to help retailers boost sales of premium spirits by 50%, or an
additional £2,500 per store.

“Encouraging shoppers to buy all the ingredients for a cocktail rather than just a spirit will increase the number of items per basket in a simple and effective way. It inspires them to purchase drinks to impress their family and friends,” says Middleton.

Mixers are an important part of your offer, with trusted brands like Schweppes and Fever Tree proving popular option.

Amy Burgess, Coca-Cola European Partners trade communications manager, says mixers are growing in popularity, whether consumed with or without alcohol. She says: “This is partly due to the popularity of cocktails and non-alcoholic mocktails as consumers look to enjoy an indulgent drink.”

Do it: Merchandise mixers next to spirits to increase shoppers’ basket spend. 

Drive gift sales

If you haven’t already got a good selection of premium spirits, you could be missing out on customers looking for a special gift.

Pernod Ricard’s second seasonal campaign is called ‘Expertly Selected Whiskies’, which aims to promote five of its top-selling scotch whiskies: The Glenlivet Founders Reserve, Chivas Regal 12 YO, Scapa Skiren, Aberlour 12 YO and Ballantine’s Finest.

The company says that stocking these and merchandising them in the right way can add more than £1,000 to each store’s annual sales.

“Our message is simple: ignore premium this Christmas and you will miss out. We are seeing success within the on-trade, where premium accounts for 50% of all spirits sold, which tells us consumers are willing to spend more on premium spirits,” says Pernod Ricard’s James Middleton.

“In comparison, 18% of all spirits sold within the convenience channel are premium, so for retailers, it’s about upping volumes to make the most of the
obvious opportunity.”

Merchandising bottle gift bags and wrapping paper next to spirits can get your customers in the gift mindset.

You can also make your range more secure at this time of year by merchandising empty gift boxes on shelves that shoppers can take to the till to receive
the bottle.

Presentation packs can also make a gift purchase feel more special: Diageo reports that gift pack sales grew 25.6% last Christmas.

Do it: Merchandise gift bags next to spirits or offer a gift wrapping service.

Stock a core range of pre-mixed drinks

The convenience of pre-mixed drinks makes them perfect for parties, where customers can just pop some cans in the fridge instead of wrestling with bottles and ice cubes.

Sales of ready-to-drink bottles have fallen out of favour, with sales declining by 12%, while cans have grown by 14%.

This increase has led to Pernod Ricard launching a range of pre-mix drinks in cans. Absolute Mixt contains Absolut vodka in two flavours: Cloudberry & Apple and Blueberry & Lime. The company hopes the cans will encourage shoppers to trade up and spend more.

However, for some retailers, offering the right value is crucial for pre-mix sales. 

“With pre-mixed drinks, you have to make sure the fridge is always stocked so there’s good availability of the product, and have the right promotions and the right price. Customers like two-for-£3 deals,” says Bimal Patel of Ferme Park Road Londis in north London.

“People look for those kinds of deals because when they’re buying pre-mixed drinks in little cans, they’re not just buying one or two, they’re buying four.”

Do it: Make sure you give space to pre-mix cans.

Retailer Views

“Sales of everyday spirits are nothing exceptional, but there is an increase at Christmas. For us, the big growth area is craft gins and local spirits.

“We’re based in Kent and we have a wealth of local products, including an amazing craft gin called Anno made in the next village over from us. We can really sell a lot of craft spirits over Christmas. They make great presents because, typically, you can’t find a local, craft spirit in supermarkets. It is a niche product that small retailers, particularly village shops, can excel in.

“I do a lot of tasters and, at Christmas, I’ll often have a time when I do tasters of cocktails using local spirits or other local ingredients. That encourages sales.”

Kate Mills
Heath Stores, Tonbridge, Kent

“We sell a good amount of spirits and it definitely goes up in the festive season, especially when it gets near to Christmas and people buy gift packs. Those sell very well.

“People trade up for the better quality spirits. Gin and Cîroc vodka are selling well at the moment. The usual range of Diageo brands are big sellers for us, but there are some new ones performing well too, like Appleton Rum.

“We have a lot of promotions, price-marked products and, coming up to Christmas, promotions on Bailey’s, with good prices on 70cl and 1l bottles. People want good value for money. Pre-mixed drinks sell very well – Gordon’s, Pimm’s and Smirnoff all do well. But that isn’t just for Christmas. For some people, it’s just their usual drink so it sells very well throughout the year.”

Bimal Patel
Ferme Park Road Londis, north London

“In December we sell a reasonable amount of spirits because a lot of people buy them for parties.

“We sell a lot of basics like Gordon’s gin and Smirnoff vodka – those are the main two. We have them merchandised next to the cheaper spirits like Chekov, but the price is still good. They’re all price-marked but we don’t really do promotions on spirits unless our symbol group has particular promotions available.

“We don’t really do any premium gift lines at the moment. There is room for growth in our spirits sales, but space restricts us.”

Jasdev Jatana
Family Shopper, March, Cambridgeshire

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