Article published in Speciality Food Magazine July/August 2019
With the most important sales season on the horizon, now is the time to ensure 2019 is your most successful year yet.
It’s that time of year again when, although it feels like summer has only just arrived, we need to talk about Christmas. As the most important trading period of the whole year, it’s essential to maximise every opportunity. After analysing what worked well and what didn’t for Christmas 2018 at the start of this year, now is the time to put those notes into action. For food retailers it’s about being honest with what could be improved on to increase sales for this upcoming festive season. Had you overordered on certain items and found yourself with stock left to shift in January? Have customer shopping habits changed, meaning it’s time to refresh your offerings in order to maximise sales opportunities?
Evaluating the reasons behind what was successful and what could be changed moving forward will only benefit when Christmas does start drawing near.
Preparation is key
For Springvale Foods Ltd, their Christmas brochure, at over 230 pages, is a year-long endeavor, involving over 100 suppliers and more than 2,000 festive products.
“We normally launch our Christmas brochure in the last week of March, which suits the speciality food buyers well since some large accounts like to have their range confirmed by May,” explains Maddie Taylor, marketing and new product development. “Our Christmas brochure is so big we have to store the Christmas stock in a separate warehouse to our AYR stock, which does make it easier logistically.”
This year the business has added over 500 new lines to ensure that there are plenty of new and exciting stocking options. “We have found a handful of new brands prove popular with buyers, too,” Maddie continues.
“The Bottled Baking Co., which we added in 2018, was extremely popular, and when you see their delightful bottled baking mixes it’s no surprise why. This year we have added The Smokey Carter, which I’d say are proving to be the most popular new brand for Christmas 2019. Their Cheese Lovers gift tube contains three chutneys which are deliciously different, and the packaging contains minimal plastic and is a great gift. Tipple Tails are also proving popular this year. Their boozy fruit cakes from Yorkshire are totally amazing and their gift tins or mini cupcakes are so timeless.”
Planning throughout the year is also crucial at Eggs to Apples Farm Shop. According to retail manager/ buyer Geraldine Turner, the shop,
“Analyse sales in January, look at bestsellers that sold out too early and items that were left after the Christmas period. We predict sales for October to December in June and look at what the percentage increase on sales will be before placing orders. We also plan tasting events early to get suppliers committed to coming in through the festive period.” Offering samples or tasting events gives customers that extra opportunity to engage with the produce.
Make room for hampers
Hampers and gift boxes are ideal gifts for Christmas but it’s important to know your customers and their purchasing habits to avoid ending up with festive-themed gifts to shift after Christmas is over. Geraldine adds that at Eggs to Apples they have found that, “Customers prefer to put together their own selections from our range of year-round goods.
We also offer a bespoke hamper service, which we find works better than food gifts.” At Weetons Foodhall, hampers are a key part of their festive offerings. Keren Shaw, general manager, explains, “Seasonal periods are always busy for us due to our gifting range,” she says. “Our exclusive hamper collections are very popular with our customers and those who have requirements for corporate gifting.
People love the fact they can select anything from our food hall and we will wrap it up for them.” If you offer pre-prepared hampers then be sure that they cater to your customers and provide a good selection of not only classic favourites but also interesting products that are less seasonal and could appeal all year round. People also like having the option to pick and choose products in order to create a more personalised gift or to cater to certain diets, so this is also something to organise early.
Be sure to include quality biscuits, chocolates and wine. Items like cheese are always a huge seller over the festive period, and can extend into early January as well with New Year’s Eve celebrations soon afterwards.
Be prepared by ensuring that you not only have a great selection of different cheeses but plenty of accompaniments too. This is the time of year where customers are willing to spend a bit more on luxury items so providing delicious pickles, chutneys, premium bread and crackers is essential. Ordering products like these that have those longer shelf lives early is beneficial, as they can be stored away until needed and as they tend to not be too heavily festive these can be sold without much difficulty into the New Year as well.
Christina Brown, head of sales and marketing at B Smith Packaging, explains, “In the wider retail sector, at peak times such as Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day etc., cheese-based gifting has become another route to market for many cheese manufacturers.
Incorporating market trends such as hot cheese, you can now buy complete sets for raclette and fondue experiences or even make your own Ricotta and Mozzarella. Gifting cheese and having it presented in branded cheese wrap and then in a branded box that can then be reused for cheese accoutrements adds value to the product and for cheese lovers everywhere, the premiumisation of their brand and the experience. In the farm shop and deli sector, and the e-commerce space, we have seen a 26% increase in the sale of cheese-themed hampers that allow the consumer to customise and add chutneys, crackers, cheese straws and artisan breads.”
As you are considering what to order and when, it’s also the right time to start prepping staff about how to deliver the best possible service when the season kicks in. Afterall, there are those customers that only visit independents during the festive season for gifts or to treat themselves to extra luxury produce for their Christmas plans, so ensure that they are well informed on your products and well taken care of.
A great experience from a one-off visit could well turn into you seeing them again in the new year.