Twenty-eight per cent of alcohol sales happen in the 12-week Christmas period, making this a crucial area to get right. Chris Dillon explores five ways you can drive sales.

Promote cocktails and mixed drinks

You should have two main goals for Christmas – encourage shoppers to spend more on premium brands to create habits for the whole year and inspire their creative side when it comes to drinks.

Recommending cocktails and mixed drinks is a great way to do both. The trend towards making these drinks at home is growing and can help you drive additional purchases.  

Pernod Ricard is urging retailers to promote three cocktails in store to make an extra £3,500. Making cocktails at home has increased by 23%, so if you can provide shoppers with everything they need to show off, then you can grow sales. 

The three cocktails are an espresso martini, made with Absolut, Kahlua and coffee; Plymouth G&T, which is made with Plymouth Gin, tonic and lemon; and Jameson & Ginger Ale made with Jameson, ginger ale & fresh lime. 

James Middleton, impulse channel director at Pernod Ricard, says if you ignore premium this Christmas, you will miss out. 

“Fifty per cent of spirits sold in the on-trade are premium compared to 18% in the convenience channel, so retailers should up volumes to make the most of the opportunity,” he explains.  

The time is also right for convenience stores to reflect the boom in gin that the multiples have had this year. 

Claire Kendall, Diageo senior customer category manager, says: “Gin only accounts for 6% of spirits sales in impulse compared to 15% in grocery multiples.” Look at ways you can grow gin sales and promote them with a tonic like Fever Tree
or Schweppes.

Offer a great range of beer and cider

The trend towards premium is also reflected in beer and cider, with average spend per trip increasing to £8.45 from £6.66. 

Toby Lancaster, Heineken category & shopper marketing director, says: “Deep discounting isn’t necessary within the impulse channel where most shoppers are looking to top up.” 

Single bottles and small packs have the largest proportion of sales at Christmas at 83%, but that means that 17% are coming from well-placed offers on mid-sized multipacks.

“Limit these to core brands and ensure your chillers are fully stocked with the right promotions on single bottles and small packs,”
says Lancaster. 

Your shoppers might not expect your store to sell large multipacks, so if you are planning to offer these, you need to make them unmissable.

Glen Friel, Aston Manor Cider sales & marketing director, says: “At Christmas, multipacks provide a convenient option for parties. Create eye-catching displays with clear prices as shoppers may not realise they can buy large cider multipacks in your store.” 

In cider, mainstream glass bottled apple cider dipped by 14% during December, but heritage cider was up by 3% showing that these lines, with their loyal followings, are less effected by warm weather, which is the lifeblood of the market. 

Amanda Grabham, Merrydown head of brand development, says: “Sharing bottles sales also increase because people are socialising more.” Merrydown Vintage 750ml had an increase of 18% in impulse stores last Christmas.

Get the right cross-promotions

Christmas-themed cross-promotions are essential for getting your shoppers in the mood. You need to help your shoppers feel like they are buying something special, without making the
offers complicated. 

Sixty-four per cent of shoppers will make a list for Christmas food and drink, so they need to be disrupted. Heineken’s Tony Lancaster recommends using well-placed cross promotions. “Maximise your sales by ensuring your regular customers are aware of the festive offers,” he says.

Beer and cider should be promoted with complementary food to give shoppers the whole package this Christmas. Sharing packs of beer with mince pies or other sharing products can drive spend.

“Fruit-flavoured drinks such as Stella Artois Cidre Raspberry increase in popularity at this time. They make a perfect accompaniment to mince pies,” says AB InBev’s head of trade marketing, Sharon Palmer. Sampling is a great way to grab your customers’ attention and show them how well products go together.

Offer premium gifts

Avoid underestimating your potential as a stop-off for gifts. If you stock the right lines and make it look enticing, you can appeal to these shoppers. 

Scotch sales increase by 68% in the eight weeks up to Christmas as shoppers trade up and buy gifts. Pernod Ricard is promoting five of its brands to tap into the opportunity: Ballantine’s Finest, Aberlour 10 YO, Chivas Regal 12 YO, The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve and the new Glen Keith.

 “Malt Whisky had an uplift of 90% last year, but only 51% of shoppers have a brand in mind when they enter a store, so we have created this range to help them pick the right one for the right person,” says Pernod Ricard’s
James Middleton.  

Once shoppers are comfortable buying one gift, they could then go on to buy several. “If space permits, retailers could create a cross-category gift bay containing premium chocolates, biscuit assortments and popular festive beers,” says Palmer.

You can make your products look special with gift wrapping and presentation boxes for relatively little investment and boost the price you can charge. Then all you need to do is make sure every customer sees them. 

Dan Harwood, head of wine education for Halewood Wines & Spirits, says: “Give premium drinks price of place at the front of your shop and stock some next to the till so that busy Christmas shoppers can quickly source presents.”

Raise the bar on wine & champagne

SALES of rosé soar by 30% in December and sales of wines at £7 spike significantly, with premium wines growing at 6% year on year. 

You should make sure that your white wines, rosé and champagne is kept chilled in case shoppers dash into your shop on the way to a party, and stock products that appeal to a broad range of people. 

Shaun Heyes, Treasury Wine Estates channel director, says: “One of the big growth areas in the wine category is products aimed at men aged 18-34, which grew by 95% in the past 12 months.” 

Treasury Wine Estates is also rolling out new winter designs on outers of Blossom Hill, which retailers can use to create festive displays. 

The Christmas period is full of dinners and get-togethers, so you should add tasting notes pairing wine with seasonal food. 

“Avoid confusing your shoppers by signposting your wines with easy-to-understand descriptions,” says Halewood’s Dan Harwood. 

Retailers looking to fully capitalise on the opportunity should stock a selection of products for designated drivers, or the third of shoppers who claim they have cut down their alcohol consumption. 

Andrew Turner, wine director at Eisberg Alcohol Free Wine, explains: “People who go alcohol free still want to feel like they’re a part of the many gatherings that typically take place between friends and families over Christmas and New Year.”

Retailer View

“Trading has been really tough at the moment, so we’ve had to put our heads down and be really inventive. We’ve managed to get some fantastic offers from Booker, including promoting 1.5l bottles of spirits, which are really popular for Christmas parties.

We’re also getting an upperhand on the supermarkets by being conscious of what lines they have and heavily promoting products that they don’t.

“We’re putting together party packs with snacks and soft drinks, offering a ‘party for 20’. We did a similar package for Halloween and got 13 orders really quickly. The trick is to say that it is a limited offer to create urgency among your shoppers.”

Faisal Naseem,
Arbroath Party Time (Premier), Angus