Christmas 'spirit' can boost trade
With more cash in their pockets, your customers like to get into the Christmas spirit - literally. The advice to publicans from First Drinks Brands' Sarah Foster is to broaden your range of spirits and liqueurs for the festive season.
But there's more to it than that. "Just putting them on the back-bar doesn't help sell them," she said. "People don't always sit opposite the bar, so you have to promote them.
"You should use table-talkers and chalkboards or, even better, get your staff behind the drinks you want to promote and actively sell them, for example by suggesting a liqueur with dessert.
"We're not great at doing that kind of thing, I know, but the aim has to be to increase spend per head in the on-trade.
"Licensees should get in touch with brand owners and ask them for any help they can get in terms of merchandising and promotions."
Promoting Christmas should start in October, Sarah says. "You have got to get in early to attract the office parties. You can use discounts and perhaps offer a free drink as people arrive."
Whether you use price promotions at Christmas depends on the kind of outlet you are operating, she added. "It won't really make a difference in style bars but licensees at the pub end of the market should look at price promotions or, better, deals such as offering customers a second drink at half price. Added value promotions work well."
You should also be encouraging customers to trade up, for instance switching blended whisky drinkers to single malts. Half of all blend drinkers will try a malt at some point and brands tend to focus on raising their profile pre-Christmas. First Drinks' Glenfiddich is, for example, being backed by a £1.5m ad campaign from November.
"We have been sampling Glenfiddich among 30-year-old blokes in style bars, getting the opinion formers to relook at whisky and drink differently to change that fireside and slippers imagery," said Sarah.
Christmas also represents a huge opportunity for liqueurs. First Drinks is introducing its Amarula fruit cream liqueur into the on-trade for the first time in the run-up to the festivities.
Cream liqueurs are growing at 31 per cent a year, driving the liqueur category.
Cocktails can also work well (see below), but Sarah's advice to publicans new to the mixology game is keep it simple.
"Christmas is not a good time to experiment," she said. "If you're planning to do cocktails, get brand owners to help you put together a list and start training your staff now. Otherwise it can get a bit messy."
- Halewood is using the run-up to Christmas to relaunch its Red Square vodka as a triple-distilled spirit.
- Pour a double shot of Glenfiddich 12-year-old over cracked or crushed ice
- Add a ribbon of crisp apple peel and gently muddle to release its flavour without clouding the drink
- Stir in a 10ml spoonful of Scottish honey.
Soft is strong at festive time
Don't forget soft drinks. Last year, according to Britvic's figures, 19 per cent of total annual sales came at Christmas. In December 2002, total soft drinks value sales rose by 25 per cent compared to the previous month, demonstrating the importance of soft drinks at this time of year.
Christmas value growth last year came from independent outlets, up 51 per cent between November and December, and there was also a big value rise in December for leased and tenanted pubs, up 36 per cent, while managed pubs suffered a six per cent loss.
Fruit juice drinks were the fasting growing, up 38 per cent on the previous month, closely followed by water.
All other sub-categories achieved substantial rises in December, illustrating the need to stock up on soft drinks for Christmas.
"Soft drinks are becoming increasingly important every Christmas for a number of reasons including healthier lifestyles, the influence of the family occasion and the impact of drink-driving campaigns," said Britvic's director of category planning, Sue Garfitt.
To maximise the opportunity, Britvic's Right Choice programme is aiming to get pub customers to trade up to better quality soft drinks, to upsize and to go soft on more occasions.
"Outlets can encourage their customers to purchase bigger and more premium soft drinks, more often on each visit and this boosts profits, especially at Christmas time," explained Sue.
Britvic's top merchandising tips are:
- promote larger servings of both draught and packaged
- train your staff to sell soft drinks alongside food and to offer refills during the meal
- chill your premium range - half of customers will pay more for cold drinks
- serve draught in hi-ball glasses with ice and lemon and offer glasses with bottled drinks
- display premium soft drinks to raise awareness
- use point-of-sale, particularly at lunchtimes when customers are less likely to want alcohol
- offer jugs of premium packaged soft drinks or soft drink cocktails
- use chalkboards for prices or special deals.
RTDs to end year on high
RTDs - better known to the public as alcopops - have had a tough year thanks to the Chancellor's duty increase. But at least one brand is looking forward to Christmas with confidence.
Beverage Brands is pumping £2.5m into advertising WKD over the festive period as the brand celebrates stealing the on-trade number two spot from Bacardi Breezer.
"Christmas is the peak sales period for RTDs," said marketing manager Karen Salters. "Last year 25 per cent of total volume came in November and December and we sold over 50 million bottles of WKD.
"There is a definite uplift in RTD sales in general during the festive season and the bigger brands with more exposure and marketing support tend to do well. Our Christmas campaign has been developed to maximise this potential.
"We are also running tailored promotions that will add value and boost margins for licensees."
Adhering to good category management principles will also help licensees make the most of RTDs, says Karen.
- make good use of point-of-sale materials to enhance the product and communicate promotional activity
- rearrange your chiller so that the biggest and fastest selling brands are in the most prominent positions and clearly visible. Clear out slow sellers
- organise your back-bar so it is tidy and not reducing serving space. Try to create space for displays to promote your most profitable lines
- find where the hotspots are in your bar (on the back-bar, behind the till, near cigarette vending machines) and use them to display PoS material
- identify which brands are the most popular in your region and stock them
- try to find time to brief and educate your barstaff on the products stocked. This will encourage them to prompt purchase from customers.
Variety the key to attract ale drinkers
As soon as tinsel hits tree cask ale drinkers will be in the mood to try something different, according to Hall & Woodhouse marketing manager Rick Payne.
"Publicans should ensure that they have a wide variety of cask and bottled ales available over the Christmas period," he said. "Christmas is a traditional time and many consumers will be looking to experiment with different variations of traditional ale to celebrate the holiday.
"Quite clearly, choice is everything. Introducing a seasonal ales programme means consumers can try ales that are not usually available."
Cask ale enters the festive period on a high. Although ales in genera