Time to look for festive favourites

Operators should be planning their Christmas offer, even if they wait to order

It’s the most wonderful time of the year when the licensed trade has Christmas firmly in its sights.
Wholesalers told SLTN there are certain products they expect to perform well in the trade this Christmas. But when should licensees start to consider their festive offer?

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When possible, it’s best to start planning sooner rather than later, advised Matt Munro, on-trade sales director at Wallaces TCB.
“Publicans naturally want to be well placed to capitalise on the rise in volume that they can expect around Christmas time, and that means ordering increased stock well ahead of time,” he said.
Yet despite the benefits of early ordering, wholesalers said the recent recession has changed the way many in the trade plan their festive season.
Mike Howard, trading manager at Ooberstock, said: “We believe that Christmas will follow the trend from previous years in that while Christmas promotions start from the beginning of November and many run through to January, licensees understandably are managing their inventory on a need to stock basis and not building stocks up front.
“We believe that this is a combination of cash flow and how unpredictable the on-trade can be, plus outside factors such as weather.”
Toby Sigouin, wine buyer at Inverarity Morton, said same-day deliveries have changed the need to stockpile Christmas orders.
But he still advised operators to be prepared well in advance.
He said: “Years ago, customers would place a huge order at the start of December and that would see them through the festive period, but the economic crash of the noughties has brought about a change in the way everyone does business.”
Sigouin advised operators to look back at last year’s sales, which he said can be “a good barometer of the season ahead”.
Licensees, he said, should now have an indication of how the lower drink drive limit is impacting sales and “plan accordingly”.
According to Sigouin, popular wines during the festive season include classic and sparkling wines, in addition to luxuries such as dessert wines and malt whiskies.
“Sparkling wine is always the chart topper at Christmas because there’s something so inherently decadent about bubbles,” he said.
“With the adult population in a collective mood of indulgence and merrymaking, it’s also a great time for the classics and France in particular: Chablis, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux all do particularly well over the season.”
Stocking up on premium products was also recommended by David Sutherland, managing director of Sutherland Brothers.
“Malt whiskies, especially the more aged varieties, do well for that special occasion, and good wines are always popular over the festive season,” he said.
“Scottish gins have outperformed the rest of the spirits market, and we expect this trend to continue over Christmas.”
Jim Rowan, managing director of Dunns Food and Drinks, acknowledged this festive season comes after what has been a “difficult year” for the on-trade with the lower drink drive limit and without the benefits of last year’s business-boosting tourism events.
But he said licensees should be able to benefit from a “festive rush” if they are properly prepared.
“Ensure you have plenty of stock in the cellar and use all available point of sale materials to spruce up your establishment,” he said.
“In addition, make sure you have loads of staff on as you will be busy and no one likes to be kept waiting.”