Bringing Christmas to life

03 October, 2008

Q As an independent, how should

I tackle spirits at Christmas? Multibuys, litre sizes, gift packs ... all are

possible but which ones are likely to pay off?

A Not surprisingly, the big spirits companies are keen to persuade you to stock the leading brands (ie theirs) and to do whatever it takes to avoid out-of-stocks. There's no doubt that there will be some sharp deals as usual in the supermarkets, but that doesn't mean smaller shops can't compete.

Diageo advises smaller retailers to concentrate on the 70cl format and discourages too many multibuys: many of the people who buy spirits at Christmas are not willing to spend more than £20 on their transaction, it says.

Nielsen data says brands account for 72% of spirits sales throughout the year, a figure which rises to 85% in the final week before Christmas.

Sales director David Smith advises retailers to "bring Christmas to life" in stores well before Christmas. Diageo has produced 16,000 POS displays for independents to help that happen. Dan Reuby, customer development director at Pernod Ricard UK, adds: "Retailers should try to give shoppers ideas and inspiration, for example they can create excitement around a spirit fixture by providing cocktail suggestions and the ingredients required to make them."

Reuby points out that "if shoppers cannot find their preferred brand of spirits, 46% will not buy a different brand or variant" and adds that "11% of wine and spirits shoppers would leave the store to buy elsewhere if their preferred brand wasn't available".

He advises retailers to recognise the gifting potential of spirits. "Retailers should capitalise on all available gift packs, making sure that they are clearly visible and accessible in store, since they are effective at encouraging customers to purchase higher styles as presents," he says. "They are critical must-stock items - 88% of shoppers claim to have bought alcohol as a gift for others, with Christmas being the main gifting occasion."

Q Do the French make ale and if so how can I get hold of some?

A The tradition in France is to produce bottom-fermenting beers, the majority of which can loosely be categorised as lagers. There are some small brewers producing what we might recognise as ales for the local market, but in the UK you're more likely to come across bi ères de garde.

These beers were originally produced in late winter and early spring in the north of France, with top-fermenting yeast, and have some of the richness and spicy fruit flavours that are associated with ale. These days they tend to be

bottom-fermented but they retain a character which makes them quite

different from lager.

You could try S aint-Sylvestre Trois Monts (from Beer Paradise or James Clay), or Jenlain (from Beer Paradise and Pierhead) to get a flavour of bi ère de garde. It's a style which deserves a wider following.

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What to expect at Christmas

The arrival of October means that we’re now officially in Nielsen’s Christmas trading period. Manufacturers and retailers alike have until December 30 to optimise their sales plans and activate them in-store in order to win at Christmas.

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Is blended Scotch overshadowed by single malt in retailers?

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