Okay, so you’ve been bombarded by Christmas sales bumpf since June, but now’s the time to get really focused – the final few weeks really can make a difference to the bottom line.
Chocolate is a massive seller all year round, but at Christmas different purchasing patterns emerge. At Christmas 2004, for example, the gifting and sharing categories were the ones driving the market (source: AC Nielsen 16 w/e 25/12/04), with value growth double that of the total chocolate market.
Specifically, sales of seasonal boxed confectionery reached £123m (AC Nielsen Scantrak 16 w/e 25.12.04) within the impulse market, while inlaid, single lines and twistwrap were also growth areas. Importantly, new products accounted for 37% of total growth last Christmas, so retailers need to ring the changes this year too.
Fortunately, manufacturers work hard all year on the Christmas ranges, so new products and new marketing campaigns are ready and waiting for retailers to cash in on them.
Bendicks, for example, is splashing out £2m on TV advertising for its Gorgeous and Mingles lines, focusing on the new 340g seasonal pack of Gorgeous boxed chocs (rrp £5.49) and the new Mingles 800g seasonal tin.
Werther’s Original butter candies and chewy toffees, meanwhile, now come in a shelf-ready tray and a new formal Christmas box, while the Fine Chocolates range by Elizabeth Shaw has a new impulse box for Christmas. The mini range of four individually-wrapped chocs has a recommended retail price of 99p and is being backed by a ‘stocking filler’ campaign.
Back on TV this year is the Terry’s Chocolate Orange campaign featuring comedienne Dawn French. Some 66% of Terry’s Chocolate Oranges sold last year were purchased at Christmas, making it the best-selling gift in the
16 weeks to Christmas by unit (source: AC Nielsen 52 w/e 15/12/04), so don’t miss out.
A new marketing campaign is also supporting Toblerone, reminding consumers that the product is the perfect ‘top up’ gift for men. This year Toblerone comes with new removable Christmas sleeves in three designs – socks, tie and slippers for the 400g bar. The new version of Toblerone – One By One Five Varieties – is also a Christmas must-stock, with the 200g box of mixed Toblerone chunks the ideal size for forecourts.
CRISPS & SNACKS
Christmas is the big season for crisps and snacks, but consumers don’t just want more of the same. PepsiCo trade marketing manager Nicky Seal explains: “At Christmas, sharing and socialising reaches a peak and households want bigger bags, festive flavours and new products.”
She adds: “For 2005, we have streamlined our range to cater for two key areas: family favourites and adult sociability; the two snacking segments that we know consumers want during the holiday period.”
Walkers’ range of festive crisps and snacks includes roast turkey and Paxo crisps as well as turkey & bacon, both in multipacks with new Christmas packaging. Meanwhile, Walkers Sensations seasonal editions include Christmas pan-fried sausage & sage flavour in 150g sharing bags, and new roast pork & creamy mustard sauce flavour, in 40g and 150g bags.
Staying with premium offerings, and Kettle Chips has launched Wensleydale & cranberry as its winter flavour, with predictions that it will be popular in both individual and sharing sizes.
Finally, with one-third of all pretzels sold in the 12 weeks leading up to Christmas, Walkers has launched Sensations Seasonal Pretzels, available in sea salt & cracked black pepper and roasted red pepper flavours in 175g sharing bags.
Tis the season to be merry, and forecourts selling alcohol can expect an influx of consumers stocking up for the festivities. However, recent years have seen fierce price competition reduce margins for independents, particularly in the beer category.
Stuart MacFarlane, managing director, take home at InBev UK, says: “As a result of this long-term downward pricing spiral, the average price of a litre of standard lager in take home at Christmas has fallen by 3p between 1995 and 2004, while premium lager has plummeted by 33p from £2.19 to £1.86 and is a staggering 15% cheaper than 10 years ago.” He adds: “We would encourage retailers and brewers to see Christmas 2005 as a pivotal opportunity to turn this downward spiral around and bring some value back into the beer market.”
MacFarlane reckons independents should focus on the ‘top up’ opportunity. “It’s the party season – people are going out to friends’ houses, they are entertaining at home, they have unexpected visitors dropping in. They need to buy more beer and it needs to be convenient,” he says. “That’s when the independent retailer really does have an opportunity to increase consumer spend in their store by putting the emphasis on big brands, ready chilled beer and larger pack formats. This will deliver the most profitable combination as chilled beer meets the convenience need; major brands tend to command a higher cash margin – last Christmas, for example, there was a huge differential of 64p between Carlsberg at £1.20 per litre and Stella Artois at £1.84 per litre; and larger packs encourage a bigger basket spend.With the market moving towards multipacks, there is a real opportunity for independent retailers to increase weight of purchase at Christmas – whether it’s moving their customers from four-packs to eights, to 12s or 15s, or even into 20/24s.”
CAKES & PASTRIES
According to Manor Bakeries, half of all cakes bought at Christmas are purchased on impulse, offering a key opportunity for forecourts. New for this year is Mr Kipling white chocolate & cranberry muffins (rrp 89p); Mr Kipling slice selection (rrp £2.35); Mr Kipling cranberry & orange whole cake – a modern alternative to a Christmas fruit cake (£2.99); and Cadbury chocolate Christmas cake (£7.49).
Over at the bake-off, meanwhile, Country Choice’s Christmas range includes a new ‘thaw and serve’ mince pie with brandy, which needs no baking and offers around 35% profit on return (rrp 39p). There is also a Festive Friends range of biscuits in snowman, reindeer and father Christmas shapes; a ‘thaw and serve’ Christmas cake square; and a fully baked, pre-portioned all butter shortbread.
On the savoury side, last year’s popular turkey, stuffing & cranberry sandwich filling is now joined by pork, stuffing & apple sandwich filling, ideal for offering Christmas ‘Special’ sandwiches or baguettes.
Finally, there is the hand-held turkey & cranberry bake.
Staying with bake-off, Bakehouse is offering macaroons as an alternative to mince pies this Christmas. They come in plain, cherry, chocolate and toffee varieties.