A spirited time of year for sales

Season presents huge potential for premium brands

• Premium spirits, whether served with mixers or in cocktails, are very popular over Christmas.
• Premium spirits, whether served with mixers or in cocktails, are very popular over Christmas.

THE festive season is an important time of year for drinks sales across the board, but presents a particularly strong opportunity for premium spirits.

‘Up-selling’ premium serves and products with higher margins to consumers is said to be key at this time of year as consumers look to treat themselves over Christmas.
“The Christmas period shows a spike in consumers seeking drinks for indulgence and celebrating, which provides an ideal opportunity to [encourage consumers to] trade up to more premium offerings,” said Rob Curteis, head of marketing for Proximo Spirits UK.
“This means an operator needs to consider taking in a greater proportion of premium stock versus other times of the year, as well as a broader range of premium brands and variants.”
According to Pernod Ricard, parent company of brands that include Martell Cognac and Absolut vodka, premium spirits have steadily increased their share of Christmas on-trade sales over the past three years, with the spirits category overall accounting for one in three drinks sold in the UK on-trade in December 2012.
Quoting CGA data, the drinks firm said there was a marked increase in the volume of premium spirits sold in the four weeks over Christmas 2012, and while restaurants and hotels accounted for the largest growth (up 36.8% and 31% respectively in volume terms), bars, pubs and nightclubs were not far behind, reinforcing the idea that revellers on a Christmas night out are more likely to buy premium drinks than at other times of year.
The volume of premium spirits sold in nightclubs increased 31% over Christmas 2012, with food-led pubs seeing an uplift of 23.3% and wet-led pubs increasing premium spirits volumes by 20.7%. Sales of premium spirits in premises termed ‘circuit bars’ grew by 26.8% in volume terms in the four weeks over Christmas 2012.
To help operators make the most of the trend towards premium spirits over the festive season, Pernod Ricard has highlighted several areas it considers key.
Product knowledge is vital, it said, in order to inform customers of the differences between spirits, their flavour and provenance, while bartending skills – ensuring the products are poured and presented in the most appealing way possible – are also important.

Stressing flavour and provenance is key to selling premium spirits.

Making effective use of visual resources such as drinks menus, and the display of the spirits themselves, is another key factor in promoting premium spirits to customers, while providing incentives can encourage staff behind the bar to make an effort to ‘up-sell’ spirits.
Unusual serves can also help encourage consumers to branch out and try something different, according to Pernod Ricard.
“Pernod Ricard UK has developed a host of premium cocktails and serves to help the on-trade offer more,” said Simon van Moppes, commercial director for spirits at the drinks firm.
“An area where the company is excelling and driving innovation is around hot serves.
“These are simple to execute yet effective at offering diversification and increased profits.”
Pernod Ricard isn’t the only drinks company encouraging licensees to consider more unusual serves this Christmas.
First Drinks, distributor of brands that include Rémy Martin, Disaronno and Sailor Jerry, is promoting new serves for Cognac in an attempt to broaden the spirit’s appeal to younger consumers.
The firm’s R&G serve, for Rémy Martin, pairs the spirit with ginger ale and a twist of lemon.
Roy Summers, head of category management at First Drinks, said sales of dark spirits tend to increase by around 30% over the Christmas period, driven by premium categories such as Cognac.
He explained that the new serve signifies “a significant change of strategy to promote the versatility of Rémy serves”.
“Rémy is a premium spirit with authenticity, but the R&G is a simple serve that makes the brand accessible and relevant to today’s consumers.”
And German speciality spirit Jägermeister is promoting tonic or ginger beer as potential mixers for the brand, as an alternative to the popular shot or ‘Jägerbomb’ serves.
A spokeswoman for Jägermeister said dark and speciality spirits are proving increasingly popular in the on-trade “due to consumers becoming more experimental with their spirit flavours”.