Understanding the Christmas gifts market – particularly when it comes to products in convenience stores – means understanding the reasons why customers are coming into your store. Joanna Tilley takes a look at four big footfall drivers
What does a teacher want?
The end of term is a time when teachers and pupils enjoy sharing gifts and indulging in sweets and treats. This is a great opportunity, suppliers say, for convenience retailers who can cater directly to these occasions. When it comes to purchasing gifts for teachers, Dean Holborn – director of the Surrey-based Holborns convenience stores – says that tins of biscuits, boxes of cakes and flowers are always a winner at Christmas.
“We sell dedicated Christmas bouquets we make ourselves, which make good last-minute gifts,” Holborn says, adding: “We make a ‘Christmas presents’ display table, too, to make things easy to find and choose from.”
The last day of term is also an occasion in many schools where teachers and pupils like to dress up, and that is why retailers Nishi and Kiran Patel have been focusing on this trend.
“We sell tinsel and Christmas hats for kids and adults, as well as elf ears and Christmas earrings,” says Nishi Patel, owner of Londis Bexley Park in Dartford. “We are doing quite well on these items. We used to sell bespoke gift boxes in our store but this is no longer working for us. Snow globes are popular and we can sell four boxes over the season,” he says.
We sell tinsel and Christmas hats for kids and adults
Keeping the kids happy
Many children have a sweet tooth, but the difference at Christmas is that parents are more likely to indulge them. This is why suppliers say retailers should think hard about how to best attract the attention of children and their parents.
With high margins available, advent calendars are a great way to help increase festive sales. This year, Mondelez has launched a Cadbury Premier League advent calendar, which comes complete with on-pack activation and daily Premier League rewards.
As well as working hard to choose the right products, retailer Suresh Kanji runs festive competitions on Facebook. “Normally we get our prizes from Booker,” says Kanji, owner of a Family Shopper in Little Hulton, near Bolton. “Everyone is using Facebook at the moment and it is important to interact with customers – it is like local gossip and definitely helps increase sales.”
Retailer Meryl Williams recommends retailers take a risk over the Christmas period and try new suppliers. “I’ve just taken an order from a new supplier which does Christmas-themed puzzle gifts,” says Williams, owner of Pike’s Newsagents in Porthmadog. Another product suppliers say is worth stocking over the festive season are batteries, as they are not always included with toys. GP Batteries offers customers high-performance cells to power their gifts, and are ideal to stock alongside battery-operated games and electronics.
Getting something that says ‘wow’
Undoubtedly the festive period will bring some last-minute dashes to the local shop to grab drinks for Christmas celebrations. And it’s more than likely that it will be at the front of the store where people will look for something more special.
But while much of the talk is about premium, artisan gins dominating the premium spirits market, one vodka supplier says the trend now is broader – and it’s one where convenience is well placed to capitalise.
“This is not about independents vs multiples, it’s about meeting the needs of the customer
in innovative, high-quality ways with products that customers are proud to give as a gift,” says Andy Wood, chief executive of Adnams.
Earlier this year, Adnams Longshore Triple Malt Vodka was the winner of the IWSC (International Wines & Spirit Competition) Vodka trophy.
Holborn, meanwhile, agrees that offering something different is the key to success – across a wide range of categories. “At Christmas, we stock a bake-in-store luxury mince pie from Country Choice.”
But it is then, he says, what you do with this range. “We’ll sell the mince pies two ways – display them under a glass bell on the sales counter and box them up in cardboard boxes with a film window, which we then tie with ribbon.” These special touches, he says, mean retailers can charge a little bit extra for these products.
It’s about meeting the needs of the customer in innovative, high-quality ways
For cosy evenings
With temperatures plummeting, there are going to be more shoppers looking for gifts they can take to friends for a cosy evening in watching Christmas movies. Evening snacking is worth more than £6.5bn, suppliers say, and chocolate is still the first choice for those sharing an evening with loved ones. Yet, while many retailers will already have the bestselling chocolate on their shelves, format and display (again) are two things that suppliers and retailers both recommend stores focus on.
Sree and Surekha Edukulla, owners of North Camp Londis Farnborough, say their Cadbury display helped to increase seasonal confectionery sales by 16%.
Retailers Mayur and Nilam Patel, meanwhile, recorded a five-fold sales increase at their Saxon Fields store in Andover, Hampshire, after using Cadbury-branded PoS in high-traffic areas.
Among the huge number of launches for the festive season this year, Mondelez data shows a big rise in spending on gifting items during Christmas and so hopes products such as Green & Black’s Velvet Fruit will be good to have in stock.
But perhaps the surest was retailers can know they’ve got the correct stock for this Christmas is by looking at the brands which appear on TV and online over the festive period.