Time for trade to show its Christmas spirit


IT’S all very well holding a raft of premium spirits – but do your customers know what you stock and how each spirit can be served?

That’s the question Pernod Ricard UK wants operators to ask themselves to help them make the most of spirit sales this Christmas.
The drinks giant told SLTN that consumers’ festive buying habits rest on a host of factors, from how spirits are displayed to the availability and style of drinks lists and cocktail menus.
By exploiting those tools, as well as serving consistently good drinks and offering ‘up-sell’ opportunities, it insists bars can cash in on the premium spirits opportunity this Christmas.
“The major winners this Christmas will be the on-trade outlets that exploit premium spirits,” Nick Yates, on-trade channel director for spirits, told SLTN.
“Premium spirits account for 36% of spirits sales [in the UK on-trade] – that’s £1 in every £3. Consumers make the connection between quality and price; they’re willing to pay more for premium brands.
“The fact that it’s Christmas and there are more people out in the on-trade looking to treat themselves highlights the opportunity there is for premium spirits.
“We’ve ramped up our support based around four pillars: make it available, make it easy to find, make it compelling and make it a great drink.”
PRUK, whose brands include Chivas Regal, Absolut and Havana Club, is calling on operators to stock a range of spirits that gives consumers scope to trade-up to higher-end products.
That advice is based on the findings of its own research, which suggests that while more than half of vodka drinkers (56%) were willing to pay more if the offer of an up-sell was made, only 8% were given the opportunity.
Bar owners should also ensure premium spirits are ‘easy to find’, it said. By following certain rules when displaying spirits on the gantry, such as ordering categories from light to dark, grouping products together within sub-categories and highlighting premium options, operators can boost sales.
Drinks menus are also said to play a key role in influencing consumers’ spirits choices, with PRUK claiming the bar is the most effective place to put drinks lists followed by on tables.
According to Yates, visibility – both on the gantry and in drinks menus – can have a major impact on sales.
“Often the back-bar space is not utilised properly,” he told SLTN.
“It is a key selling area for operators. Our Premium Edge research showed that 25% of spirits purchases are influenced by the back-bar display.
“To make the most of a back-bar area it should be kept clean and tidy with the products easy to find.

The potential for premium spirits is especially prevalent at Christmas.

“Operators should group categories together in a ‘good, better, best’ way – for example, value to mainstream to premium, or standard to premium to super-premium, depending on the outlet.”
But socking and displaying a range of premium spirits is only half the battle.
Operators must also ensure they – and their bar staff – ‘make it compelling’ when it comes to spirits this Christmas.
Claiming 30% of purchasing decisions are influenced by a recommendation, whether from staff or friends, PRUK said its research also revealed that half of consumers had accepted an ‘up-sell’ because bar staff appeared knowledgeable about a particular spirit.
Finally, licensees should endeavour to ‘make it a great drink’.
Staff who are able to create a perfect serve every time can encourage consumers to stay in a bar for longer – and come back again.
“Getting the serve right and making it different to the at-home experience is crucial,” Yates added.
“The potential for premium spirits is especially prevalent at Christmas when consumers are looking to treat themselves. This is an easily accessible opportunity, but current views towards up-selling in the UK on-trade are not allowing us to collectively realise the full benefits of the premium spirits opportunity.
“Bringing all of those steps – make it available, make it easy to find, make it compelling and make it a great drink – together is the key to unlocking the premium spirits opportunity.”