CHRISTMAS party season has arrived and while the increase in footfall puts more pennies in the till, it puts more pressure on the stockroom too.
Publicans should have no fear this Christmas, however, as wholesalers have insisted they’re fully equipped to handle any last minute emergencies and are even looking ahead to how they can cushion the blow for pubs during the traditionally quieter months of January and February.
Ian Cumming, commercial director at Inverarity Morton, said the firm will be offering same-day delivery “for anyone really stuck” over the festive period.
“We do anticipate these eventualities so that’s why we make sure we’re well stocked up even if our customers aren’t and we bring in more warehouse and delivery staff over December to cope with the increased demand,” said Cumming.
If publicans are going to need to stock up on anything this Christmas there’s a good chance it will be the brands in their premium range, as Cumming said customer demand for quality has been a theme in the on-trade throughout the past 12 months.
“During 2015, we have seen a definite move towards drinking ‘less but better’,” he said.
“Factors influencing this trend include the reduced drink drive limits, and also consumers starting to feel more comfortable about trading up due to the economic situation improving.”
For Christmas, in particular, this trend could lead to a boost in sparkling wine, but not where some may expect, suggested Cumming.
“Christmas is the season for all things sparkling, but not necessarily Prosecco,” said Cumming.
“Champagne houses are trying hard to cash in on the festive up-spend and are offering good retro discounts to operators who push Champagne by the glass – this is where the profit opportunity lies.”
Publicans should also expect seasonal drinks such as mulled wine to be “very popular” over the next few weeks, Cumming suggested, adding that offering premium versions that represent a twist on traditional favourites “is a great way to drive margin”.
Iain McPherson of Matthew Clark agreed that there may be an “opportunity for growth” with Champagne in particular, and added that the thirst for all things premium could also transfer into the soft drinks market in 2016.
“Premium soft drinks will be in demand for 2016; we’re seeing a bit of a ‘what’s the point, if I can’t have a proper glass, why kid on?’ attitude coming from many consumers,” he said. “But that’s not to say the non-alcoholic drinks are not doing well, some outlets are really capitalising on this, and providing a great offer.”
Christmas may be a busy time for wholesalers, but Matthew Clark is also working ahead with 2016, McPherson said, with the firm aiming to cater to customers’ needs through the leaner months of winter.
Matthew Clark will be stocking products that tie in with special occasions in January and February which “normally involve alcohol”.
“[For] Burns Night in Scotland, we’ve just listed four of the Douglas Laing [whisky range] and are also leading with a Balvenie promotion and pairing with cheese, [which is] great for up-sell during the festive period,” said McPherson.
The firm also has plans to offer support for Valentine’s Day through point of sale and training.
And while 2015 may have seen the beer and wine market hit by drink driving legislation introduced by the Scottish Government last December, McPherson said there should now be some “stabilisation” in the market.