Wholesalers say they are prepared for any eventuality this festive season
UNPREDICTABLE weather and changing buying habits are just two of the challenges facing the licensed trade this Christmas.
But it isn’t just bars, pubs and restaurants that are affected – Scotland’s wholesalers are also under pressure as they strive to help publicans make the most of the season.
While some trade operators continue to plan well in advance of Christmas, David Sutherland, managing director of Wick-based wholesale firm Sutherland Brothers, said the fact that some are switching to ‘last minute’ buying is putting wholesalers under more pressure.
“Things have changed over the years,” he said.
“In the past customers stocked up well in advance, often buying at pre-Christmas trade shows.
“Now they tend to leave it until the last minute and not buy in bulk, often ordering as and when they require it.
“This poses problems for wholesalers in estimating how much and what stock to hold.”
Stephen Brogan, owner of online wholesaler Ooberstock, agreed that many operators try to avoid over-stocking ahead of the festive season.
“Whilst volumes increase in some styles of venues during the festive season the trend in the independent sector is to spread the ordering to avoid over-stocking,” he said.
Wholesalers are under pressure to maintain deliveries regardless of closed roads or other obstacles.
In spite of these changing habits, wholesalers are still able to predict which drinks categories they think will prove popular over Christmas.
This year premium spirits, including whisky, gin and rum, are expected to be in demand over the festive season, as well as beers from the burgeoning craft ale category.
“Craft beer is certainly on the increase and I’m delighted to say that the trade is now finally acknowledging what a fantastic product malt whisky is,” said Inverarity Morton commercial director Ian Cumming.
“There is definitely much more of a focus on these products this year.”
A consumer trend towards indulgence at Christmas also creates more opportunities for operators and wholesalers alike.
“We traditionally see an uplift in after-dinner drinks, with consumers looking to treat themselves,” said Des Gallagher, regional managing director for Scotland at Matthew Clark.
“We recently conducted a range review across whisky and Cognac, including the introduction of new honeyed American whiskeys, as well as bolstering our cream liqueur offering with the addition of the new Baileys Luxe, so we expect these products to perform well in the run-up to Christmas.
“Sales of soft drinks also see a boost over Christmas as non-drinkers are more likely to look for a drink with a bit of personality.”
Ensuring they are stocked up on the right products is only part of the story, however.
Winter weather also brings its own set of challenges for wholesalers, who are under pressure to maintain deliveries regardless of closed roads or other obstacles.
“As in previous years our committed staff will pull out all the stops to give an uninterrupted service to our customers,” said Brian Calder, managing director of WallacesTCB.
“When the Scottish weather is particularly challenging our customers understand and appreciate the difficulties of making deliveries.
“But with their understanding comes a knowledge that we will do absolutely everything in our power to make sure that everyone will receive their orders.”