Shoppers can be reluctant to forgo alcohol over the festive season, so offering a wide range of tipples can help you end the year on a high.
By Elena Dimama
Christmas is inextricably connected to indulgence, with food feasts accompanied by drinks – and this year should be no different.
Despite the economic challenges, last-minute purchases for spirits in convenience stores for either personal consumption or for gifting are still set to play an important role over the festive period for sales.
The opportunity for selling premium spirits is big for independent retailers during this year’s Christmas season. According to the CGA-Xmas report in 2022, one quarter of consumers stated they were looking to spoil themselves with a more premium drink, despite the tough times. And according to Mintel, 80% of shoppers agree that food and drink are a good option as an affordable gift, meaning that premium spirits can fulfil this demand. A separate Kantar study found that beers, wines and spirits are the number one choice as a gift when visiting friends and family.
“We’re hugely excited for Christmas 2023 as it’s time for Premium Spirits to reclaim the occasion after beer dominated during last year’s football World Cup. In the current economic climate, we are anticipating a significant shift to the Off-Trade as consumers choose to host at home and manage budgets,” Chris Shead, Off-Trade Channel Director at Pernod Ricard UK, comments. “This presents a huge opportunity for our customers and winning in cocktails remains the key to success. For the convenience channel, Premium+ Spirits offer a point of difference, as the larger supermarkets are increasingly challenged by discounters.”
The company is urging convenience retailers to plan both for shoppers looking to spread the cost of Christmas across more months by providing gifting options early and for at-home celebrations, as shoppers are expected to host more affordable occasions for friends and family.
“To maximise profits, the ongoing trend for premium spirits, and the profit opportunity on offer, should definitely be a focus for retailers,” Sharon Kearney, Impulse Controller for Bacardi, adds. “At Christmas, 33% of spirit sales are premium while in convenience stores only 22% are premium. There is a massive opportunity in premium spirits if retailers have the right offer,” she explains.
According to the MMR Spirit Gifting Tracker (Dec 2022), whisky was the number one spirit for gifting between October and December, having enjoyed a 30% share of ‘spirits bought as a gift’ last year. Meanwhile, gin was also enjoyed by 11 million consumers in the UK, according to Kantar, whilst tequila has grown by nearly 15% in the last 12 months, according to Nielsen.
Lauren Priestley, Head of Category Development Off Trade at Diageo, also notes: “Stocking premium spirits from reputable and trusted brands is essential in the run up to the festive season as we can expect customers seek products that lend themselves to gifting or celebrating.
“We recommend maintaining a few super-premium vodkas which last year, accounted for 51% of super-premium spirits sales in impulse between October and December, and is key when encouraging increased shopper spend and gifting purchases.”
Making cocktails at home gained increased popularity during lockdown, and consumers have since embraced the cocktail culture, feeling comfortable to mix different drinks in their own home. “What consumers enjoy in a bar is a good indication of what they’ll be enjoying at home this Christmas,” Kearney notes. According to CGA’s report in the first quarter of 2023, the list of the top 10 most popular cocktails in the UK’s on-trade sector was dominated by vodka cocktails, like the porn star martini, along with rum cocktails, like the mojito and the daiquiri.
Read-to-drink cocktails can play a big role in helping independent retailers trade up, as they offer a convenient way of enjoying a favourite drink with minimum effort and at a relatively low cost.
“For those looking to enjoy a cocktail at home during these celebratory occasions, ready-to-drink cocktails offer ultimate convenience and a consistently perfect festive serve,” Amy Burgess, Senior Trade Communications Manager at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, tells SLR. “In Great Britain’s convenience market, the alcoholic ready-to-drink section is already a powerhouse, worth nearly £168m, and it’s gearing up for a significant surge by 2030.”