We wish you a busy Christmas and a buoyant New Year

Drinks companies positive about festive trading in December

FOR various reasons, the last few years’ festive trading hasn’t been what operators would have hoped for. 

And so there are naturally high hopes ahead of festive season 2023. Will this be the first ‘normal’ festive season since 2019? 

The good news is that drinks companies certainly seem to think so – predicting an uplift in visitor numbers as well as sales. 

“While the past few years have been tough with the Covid 19 pandemic, rail strikes and a World Cup (that Scotland wasn’t in!), this year gives everyone an opportunity to really focus on a positive festive period,” said Gillian Murray of C&C Group, adding that, although customers may be saving their money in November, Christmas ‘remains a fantastic opportunity with more on-trade visits and consumers wanting to treat themselves’. 

Gillian Murray

“Christmas falling on a Monday should prove favourable, driving consumer spend over the weekend before,” said Murray. 

Others pointed to signs of recovery throughout 2023 as positive indicators for the festive season. 

“The on-trade has settled down now and we can see regular trading patterns beginning to appear,” said Crawford Sinclair of Innis & Gunn.  

“We are confident that consumers will flock to the on-trade this festive season to celebrate and enjoy great experiences.”

Amy Burgess, senior trade communications manager at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP), agreed. 

“Although consumers are being careful with how they spend their money this year due to the increased cost of living, we expect increased visits to continue in 2023, as people prioritise socialising with their family and friends,” she said. 

“Christmas and New Year offer operators an opportunity to diversify their range and bring some extra sparkle. 54% of consumers enjoy trying something new when they’re at a pub or bar, so there’s scope to experiment with unique festive cocktails and mocktails.”

Delivering an experience that can’t be replicated at home will be key, said Burgess. 

That can be through a great range of quality food and drink, and excellent service, as well as the all-important ability to bring all of these facets together. 

Belhaven head of marketing, Steven Sturgeon, stressed the importance of stocking a range of drinks that pairs well with an outlet’s menu. 

“Competition is fiercer than ever, and each outlet needs to be confident in what sets it apart from every other licensed premises that offers great food, drink and experiences,” he said. 

“Once outlets understand this, they can really lean into it. To really maximise profits, you also need to increase spend per head and get your guests staying for longer. You can do this having a great range of drinks that suit the different occasions for a guest and up-selling with the knowledge of the perfect pairings for your dishes on the menu.” 

And covering important customer concerns such as health and the environment can’t hurt. 

Nick Gillet, managing director of distributor Mangrove Global, said licensees ‘should have a few options that cater for the health conscious as well as the environmentally conscious’ on their menus this festive season. 

On the drinks side, this can include low and no-alcohol alternatives ‘to ensure that everyone stepping through your doors feels catered for’, as well as a selection of drinks that are produced sustainably, with low carbon footprints – or perhaps even carbon-positive.