WHETHER it’s office parties, family get-togethers or a quiet moment after a day of shopping, consumers head to the on-trade in droves over the festive period.
And while most drinks categories could be set to benefit from this anticipated increase in footfall, suppliers contacted by SLTN last week reckon wine is in line for a real boost this Christmas and New Year.
Amy White, marketing director at Accolade Wines, highlighted the importance of the festive period to the wine category, describing the coming weeks as “the opportunity of the year to increase sales”.
With this in mind, White urged operators to ensure that the range of wines they stock is clearly visible to consumers in their outlet.
“Naturally you should also showcase your offering with prominent back-bar displays, keeping the fridges full and give serving suggestions too,” she said.
“All these tools help your customer make a confident and quick decision.”
Amy Ledger of Continental Wine & Food agreed that marketing and promoting wine in outlets is the “key to ensuring buoyant sales success”.
“This process begins the moment the customer walks through the door and point of sale and promotional material have an important part to play,” she said.
“With the more buoyant and positive economic environment comes an increased consumer confidence and the willingness to loosen the purse strings in order to celebrate, experiment and have a little fun.
“Furthermore, we are starting to see a little more experimentation particularly with wine choices.
“Planning in advance is the key to a successful festive season and keeping things simple will pay dividends.”
When it comes to preparing for Christmas, Angela Ham, marketing manager at International Wine Services, the firm behind sparkling wine brand Castaway Spritz, said operators should look to “key trends” when building their wine list, adding that bubbles could give sales some life.
“Sales of Prosecco have driven consumers’ growing demand for affordable sparkling wine,” she said.
“With the festive period upon us, this demand will no doubt rise as consumers look to celebrate in style.”
With the party season bringing customers out more often, Ham highlighted lower ABV wines as another important trend.
“In addition, we know consumers are increasingly keen on a lighter style of wine – products with a lower alcohol content are becoming more popular with UK consumers,” she added.
“And with so many social events to go to, a lower ABV wine is an ideal way to take it a little easier over the festive season, without compromising on the experience.”
Describing sparkling wines as an “obvious area of popularity” this Christmas, Nial Deveney of Dunns Food and Drinks said the wine category offers operators a number of opportunities over the festive period.
“Against other categories, wine can still return healthy margins but a strong range is essential, as well as staff knowledge, to help sell it,” he said.
“With the growth of sparkling wines, we have seen interest in Champagne and Prosecco-based cocktails also increase.”
Cocktails aren’t the only step licensees can take to boost wine sales in the coming weeks.
Toby Sigouin, wine buyer at Inverarity Morton, highlighted food matching as a potential margin driver, suggesting operators match “premium wine ranges to seasonal dishes” as part of package deals for functions.
“We work closely with our customers to lend advice on the best food matches and also assisting in the production of seasonal menu cards etc.” said Sigouin.
“[Offering] wine flights – producing a set menu with wine matches is perhaps the best way to capitalise on this as it takes the decision away from the consumer.
“We know that the few operators that currently offer matched wine flights do very well with them, so it is definitely something that other outlets should consider to help sales of premium wines.”
Mike Gibson, sales director for wines and spirits at Crown Cellars, agreed that the prevalence of food-led occasions over Christmas creates an opportunity for publicans.
“By providing wine matching suggestions on the menu alongside festive dishes, and training front-of-house staff on the principles of food and wine matching, they will yield real dividends through the till,” he said.
Leslie Somerville of Enotria underlined the importance of well-trained, well-prepared staff.
“Incentivise your staff on up-selling so they gain from the growth as well as the operator,” said Somerville, adding that operators should consider staff training “whether it is a refresher course or just a functional business review of what you want to sell and how this can be achieved through product placement, food matching and package offers”.
And although the coming weeks may be the busiest of the year for the on-trade, publicans don’t need to go it alone.
Siobhan Irons, wine buyer at Matthew Clark, advised operators to “make the most of your supplier”, suggesting publicans should speak to their account managers and “understand what Christmas deals are available to you”.
“Christmas is a huge opportunity for the on-trade and it’s important to maximise every opportunity,” said Irons.