C&C Group upbeat as it expects festive trade to be ‘back with a bang’

One of Scotland’s biggest drinks suppliers is upbeat about the upcoming festive season, anticipating increased footfall and revenues for Scotland’s pubs, bars and restaurants. 

Speaking to SLTN, Gillian Murray, on-trade director for Scotland at Tennent’s parent company C&C Group, said the company is optimistic that the trade will see its first ‘real’ Christmas trading period since 2019. 

“We knew last year there was a lot of disruption,” Murray told SLTN. “And (before that) we had Covid. So we do think people are going to go out and they’re going to go out with a bang. That’s the expectation.” 

Murray said operators she had spoken to had identified the first weekend in December as key for Christmas bookings – earlier in the month than usual. But she was hopeful that this could encourage customers to have repeated nights out through the month.

“If people go out and have a really good night, they’ll be encouraged to go out again. And that’s what we want – we want people to go out and really enjoy themselves this year.”

As to which products will prove most popular this festive season, Murray reckoned it will be a combination of tried and trusted favourites and new, on-trend serves. 

“I think it’ll be a combination of that trusted drink – what you know, what you are familiar with – and that experience; I’m going to try something a little bit different, a little bit more up tempo,” she said.  

“So I do see it being that real hybrid of trusted, known products and maybe some new cocktail that’s come out that really sets the heather on fire this year.”

Murray was speaking to the title at C&C’s Scotland On Tap trade show, which took place last month at SWG3 in Glasgow. 

Exhibitors from across the drinks world were in attendance, with special offers for licensees available only at the show. 

“It’s a great chance to mitigate some of the duty increases, some of the cost of living increases – with utilities and fuel – and actually get some support from the brand owners to pay it back somewhat,” said Murray. 

“We really do think customers are keen to get a deal. It’s not the big pallet deals that we used to do previously. It is the kind of ‘buy two get one free’ that’s putting cash back in the publican’s till.”

And brand owners were keen to outdo themselves this year. 

Murray said: “They’re pretty competitive. Once the first one gives a great deal that gets out. Everybody wants to get that Christmas basket. 

“Everybody wants their brands on the bars in Scotland. 

“So they are all competing to an extent, but it’s working in the publican’s favour.”

Murray told SLTN that, although this marked only the second year of Scotland On Tap, the show can trace its roots back decades to the Wallaces Express trade shows (C&C acquired Wallaces in 2014).

“While it’s been badged On Tap (for two years), it’s probably been about 25 years in the making all-in,” she said.