Nielsen insight: all I want for Christmas is off-trade growth

Christmas is my favourite season – I have been known to put my tree up in mid-November. Yes, I am one of those people.

We are well and truly into the Christmas trading period, which is great news for the alcohol industry as off-trade alcohol sales over the 12 weeks of Christmas account for around a sixth of all FMCG sales and a third of total annual off-trade alcohol sales. While the Christmas trading period has always been important, shoppers spent £116 million (2.6%) more on alcohol during Christmas 2017 than they did the year before – and we expect to see that figure rise again this festive season. 

Here are the Five Gold Things you need to know for Christmas 2018:

Gin is where it’s at

Gin is the star performer within spirits, having generated a standout 79% of spirits growth in the latest year (£264 million). Expect to see some gin-tastic results this Christmas as flavoured gin continues to rise in popularity, having overtaken flavoured vodka earlier this year, and we expect to see further growth. A good selection of flavoured gin options will be essential to cater to shoppers on the lookout for new and different gifts in the category. 

Gifting: it’s not just the thought that counts

The traditional alcohol gift packs, which contain a bottle of alcohol and an extra related product (special glass, chocolates etc), seem to be losing their appeal. In 2017, 21% of shoppers claimed to have bought an alcohol gift pack at Christmas, down from 33% in 2016. Shoppers are still looking for alcohol gift options but they want something a bit more personal and upmarket, while still representing value for money. They want to buy an alcohol gift if:

- they know the recipient would like it (66%)  

- it is displayed in a presentation box/tin (23%) 

- it is on offer (23%)

Are you set up to tap into this shopper shift? It’s critical to have a good selection of the well-known and well-loved brands on shelf, as well as a range of options and offers when it comes to gifting this year.

Christmas craft of the beer variety 

The beer category has made a comeback through 2018, with world beer and craft beer driving growth, and this will continue into Christmas. Last Christmas sales of world and craft beer increased by £21.6 million, a 15.7% increase over the previous year, and we expect this growth to accelerate over Christmas. The growth we’ve seen over the course of this year in craft beer has come from shoppers moving towards well-known craft brand offerings of multi and mixed packs. These packs are well suited to the Christmas season and lend themselves well to promotions. 

Don’t forget the minis

A whopping 55.5% of annual spirits miniature sales and 28% of still and sparkling wine minis occur during the Christmas period. Sales of spirit miniatures rose 40.5% last Christmas, driven by gin, malt Scotch and liqueurs, and wine miniatures up 15.5%. They’re a staple for many when it comes to gifting, as shoppers can purchase about three miniatures for £10, making them great stocking fillers or secret Santa gifts. These present a great opportunity for retailers and brands to think about how best to position miniatures to capture shopper spend, and to use them to attract shoppers looking for less expensive or top-up
gift options.  

Celebrating with Champagne 

It wouldn’t be the festive season without a glass of bubbly or two. Champagne has suffered over recent years, but since the start of 2018 it has seen year-on-year growth each month and is showing no signs of slowing. Around 15% of sales for off-trade alcohol are in Champagne in the week running up to New Year’s Eve. As the high-end celebratory tipple of choice, expect to see shoppers looking to spend a little more on Champagne in the run-up to this Christmas and New Year.

Before long, the big Christmas drinks promotions will be starting, with many coinciding with the end of November payday, or “millionaires’ weekend”, when most shoppers will be looking to cash in on the deals. 

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