Convenience retailers are lagging behind their grocer counterparts when it comes to selling premium spirits and they could unlock a massive sales opportunity this Christmas.

Nielsen data shows that every c-store in the UK needs to sell an extra £557 worth of high-end spirits this Christmas to catch up with the grocery channel.

That equates to three extra bottle per week of premium spirits, which Nielsen defines as retailing for at least 20% more than the average bottle price.

If impulse retailers can pull it off, the category will grow by £18.4 million.

Pernod Ricard UK aims to help by investing £3 million into Christmas marketing for its key brands, and it has advice for c-stores.

Chris Shead, off-trade channel director, said: “This is a huge opportunity for retailers and one they can get right by doing three things: ensure premium spirits get proportionately more shelf space than standard; increase basket spend by advertising cocktails in store, using our POS; and finally, ensure NPD is listed to excite consumers looking for new flavours and tastes.”

In the past two years, the overall spirits market has grown by £391 million and new product development has accounted for £132 million of that.

Pernod defines NPD as anything that launched within the past two years.

It urged retailers to consider new brands like Beefeater Pink, which has been a runaway success in the grocery channel, and Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition.

It added that flavoured vodka drove all vodka category growth in the last year in Impulse yet it is only in 55% distribution in this channel.

Shead told DRN: “The traditional norms of the market are making sure you’re very price competitive against the multiples. That price competitiveness hasn’t completely gone, but the dynamic is changing and it’s much more about what you’re stocking and getting some nice stuff on shelf. There’s quite a shift, which does open up the market for convenience stores.”

Premium spirits have driven almost all of the growth in the spirits category in the past year, according to Nielsen.

Off-trade customer market controller Ravinder Atwal said: “You don’t have to compete on price as much, you have to compete, and show your shoppers that it’s worth browsing. Get things out from behind the counter, put products in eye line, it’s the foundations of doing the ranging things really well.”

Chris Ellis, commercial director, added: “Premium spirits is the way forward. In the off-trade, don’t give your space to litres of standard brands. Give space and visibility to premium spirits. We’re going to invest in those brands.”