With St Patrick’s Day falling on a big sporting weekend, suppliers are predicting this year’s event will be the biggest ever. Joseph Lee answers four questions to help you capitalise on the opportunity.

When should I create a St Patrick’s Day display?

Spring is packed with events for retailers to organise displays for, so it can be hard to know how to fit it all in. Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Easter are firm fixtures in most retailers’ calendars, but this year could be the biggest opportunity ever for St Patrick’s Day.

James Middleton, Pernod Ricard impulse channel director, says this year was likely to be a big celebration, with March 17 falling on a big sporting Saturday.

“St. Patrick’s Day has been gaining momentum and this year, there’s potential for the festivities to be bigger than ever before as England faces Ireland on the final day of the 2018 Six Nations Championship,” he says.

“We want to get more people in stores for a longer period and we are supporting retailers to do this by investing heavily in the promotion of a ‘Happy St. Patrick’s Month’.”

Martin Mulligan at Mulligans Service Station and Grocery in Athlone, County Westmeath, says this approach is similar to  the habits in Ireland. 

“We usually start a few days before – if it’s a weekend it can be a longer celebration. In the cities now they can have more of a week-long event,” he says. “This one coming up will be a big one.”

Do it: Make sure your displays are in place a week before March 17

What are the best products to promote?

One product is synonymous with St Patrick’s Day. “With its harp and shamrock, Guinness is something you’ve got to stock,” says Mulligan.

According to research at Northumbria University, around 13 million pints of Guinness are drunk around the world on Ireland’s national day, more than double its normal daily sales.

For those customers who may not enjoy stout, retailers can keep up the theme with bestselling Irish drinks such as Magners Irish Cider, Harp lager or Smithwick’s Red Ale.

Whiskey sales also receive a boost from the celebrations, with Jameson reporting an increase of 174% in the run up to March 17. Impulse retailers sell £6.5m-worth each year and the brand’s 14% year-on-year growth is down to more than 450,000 new customers in the 25-34-year-old age group.

Retailers can pair their drinks with snacks from Irish brands like Tayto. Mulligan says confectionery sales are also strong in Ireland on the day and it is traditional to mark the end of winter by starting sales of soft-serve ice-cream, usually coloured green for the occasion.

Mike Benton, Symington’s head of snacking, says retailers should look out for limited-edition themed products, too, such as The Irish One, an Irish stew-flavoured pack from its Mug Shot instant pasta range.

Do it: Promote drinks next to Irish confectionery and  snacks to drive sales

How can I create a great display?

Last year, Anita Nye, manager at Eldred Drive Stores (Premier) in Orpington, Kent, decorated her shop with foil shamrocks, bunting and a Leprechaun balloon on top of the lottery terminal for extra luck.

“We order it all in online. We place the decorations all around the shop because we don’t have a St Patrick’s Day section,” she says.

Clip strips can boost shelf space, make room for limited-edition products and allow cross-merchandising, such as hanging crisps next to Irish beers.

Pernod Ricard’s James Middleton recommends making use of PoS at the counter to make sure that St Patrick’s Day is on customers’ minds as they make their purchases. Counter mats can remind shoppers not to forget their bottle of whiskey.

Symington’s Mike Benton says: “Create a one-stop shop by siting relevant products in the same location. As with any occasion, it’s crucial to brief staff effectively so they can make recommendations to customers and upsell where possible.”

Do it: Make sure you promote St Patrick’s Day all around your shop to promote it to shoppers

Is help available?

Some retailers say that when it comes to St Patrick’s Day, they feel they are on their own, creating in-store theatre with home-made decorations or buying bunting and other display items.

“It’s mostly an individual effort, you just make your own,” says Mulligan. Nye agrees. “We don’t really get much support from suppliers – I can’t really remember anyone offering anything. I think it would be quite helpful if there was something available as not everyone has got a budget 
to do decorations.”

Pernod Ricard is providing PoS, such as bunting, posters and clipstrips promoting its Jameson, ginger and lime drinks, as well as dummy boxes to help retailers that keep spirits behind the counter promote them on the shop floor. 

Symington’s Mike Benton says the company will be promoting its limited-edition Irish products on social media and recommends retailers do the same to highlight St Patrick’s Day products 
and deals.

Do it: To receive free St Patrick’s Day PoS, call 020 7689 3379.