The most wonderful time for a beer?

There’s a chance for licensees to cash in with premium brews over the holidays

THE approach to December is hectic for many in the licensed trade; and while licensees will no doubt be focusing much of their energy on Christmas cocktail and wine lists, they could be missing a trick if they don’t pay as close attention to their beer range.

Brewers have told SLTN that the increased festive footfall offers a real opportunity to grow beer sales – providing operators get their range right.

“When you consider that a tenth of all wet volume in the on-trade is delivered in the month of December, it’s vital that you prepare effectively so you can maximise the massive opportunity that this time of year presents,” said Jerry Shedden, on-trade category and trade marketing director at Heineken.

This was echoed by Sharon Palmer of AB InBev, who said that, for many premises, taking full advantage of the festive season “can be the difference between a successful year and a poor one”.

“To get it right, preparation is key,” said Palmer.

“Licensees must ensure that their best-selling beers are well stocked ahead of the festive season.

“Premium brands sell consistently well all year round but at Christmas and New Year they will be in even higher demand, so make sure you cater for the additional trade when placing orders.”

But making the most of the festive trade is about more than just ordering additional stock.

Jo Stewart, co-founder of Stewart Brewing, believes a diverse range and informed bar staff are also key to engaging the increasingly discerning beer drinker over Christmas and New Year.

Licensees must ensure their best-selling beers are well stocked ahead of the festive season.

She said: “Operators should ensure they have a variety of beers to satisfy all tastes, especially during the busy festive period when operators can expect increased custom and greater demand for beers.

“As Christmas is traditionally the time of year when people treat themselves, many beer drinkers will happily trade up to more premium beers.

“Bartender knowledge has a big influence on the drinker’s choice, so ensuring bar staff are knowledgeable about the premium beer and lager available will allow them to make recommendations to customers and encourage them to trade up.”

Mark Carter, senior drinks category manager at Marston’s, agreed, saying customers will, generally, be more willing to part with their cash and upgrade what’s in their pint glasses and bottles over the holidays.

“Customers are in the Christmas spirit and more than likely are out for a treat or different drinks, including everything from a new bottled style or possibly even a more premium beer that they wouldn’t usually choose on a normal occasion,” he said.

And Crawford Sinclair, UK sales director at Innis & Gunn, said a good Christmas beer range should include “a core of recognisable premium products that you can encourage trade-up to and an element of carefully chosen ‘Christmas’ beers”.

Many beer drinkers will happily treat themselves and trade up to more premium beers.

The health trend is also worth bearing in mind in the approach to Christmas, according to Palmer at AB InBev.

She said that, although healthier eating and drinking isn’t usually associated with the festive season, the firm expects some consumers to be moderating their alcohol intake even during December.

“People often resolve to get fit and healthy at the beginning of the New Year, but this will run through the festive period with people reducing their alcohol intake as part of a healthy lifestyle,” said Palmer.

With so many beers on the market it can be difficult to know if a range is just right. But, with a few weeks to go before December, there is still an opportunity for licensees to tweak their beer selection, said Alan Hay, sales director at Tennent’s.

He suggested operators make the most of the next few weeks by using them to trial different beers ahead of the festive season.

“Offering customers a promotion on different brands or serves through the early weeks in November will give pub owners an idea of what drinks might prove particularly popular, or unpopular, during the busier period,” said Hay.

Lastly, it’s vital that licensees shout about any festive range, events or offers they may have planned, said Shedden of Heineken.

“It may sound obvious, but making sure your regular customers and everyone in the local area is aware of any special events or seasonal specials on the menu, is absolutely crucial to getting more people through the door,” he said.

“Put signs up outside with the details of your offers, menus and events to draw people in.”