Stocking fillers: drinks as festive gifts

Drinks are more likely to be given as a present than chocolate or beauty products, and 73% of people bought alcohol as a gift in the past year, according to the William Grant Market Report.

Christmas and birthdays are the top occasions for gift-giving, the report said. But could retailers do more to encourage shoppers to buy drinks as presents, and to make it easier for them to do so?

Last month Virgin Wines launched a gift business, offering free next-day delivery, personalised messages and gift wrapping, with a wide range of gift-boxed wines. If you Google “wine gifts”, it sits near the top alongside the likes of Majestic and John Lewis.

So how will Virgin stand out from the crowd?

Andrew Potts, general manager of Gifts by Virgin Wines, tells OLN: “If you give customers a good enough reason to buy from you, such as delivering excellent service and offering a diverse range of interesting products which provide quality and value for money, you won’t go far wrong.

“Virgin Wines is built on offering the best service possible and providing quality boutique wines. We hope customers will recognise that and be enticed to use a business launched from a well-established provider of premium alcoholic products to send a top-quality boutique wine gift.”

He adds: “Just offering a shiny gift box on a shop shelf isn’t enough these days. Those who give gifts more often than not want to go the extra mile for the recipient, and as a result consumers expect businesses to go the extra mile.”

Trading up is key to gift sales. Forty per cent of spirits gifts are Scotch whisky because it has a high value perception, a sense of prestige and a wealth of opportunities to trade up through interesting variants, according to William Grant.

Pernod Ricard UK off-trade channel director Chris Shead says impulse and convenience stores could be missing a £13 million opportunity in spirits this Christmas if they don’t focus on getting consumers to trade up.

In multiple grocers, 30% of spirits sold at Christmas 2013 were premium, according to Nielsen – but their share in impulse is much lower, bringing the overall off-trade premium share down to 18%.

“Creating a 30% share for premium spirits in impulse would equate to £13 million of incremental sales – the opportunity is massive,” says Shead.

Wines priced at £6.50 and above also see a huge uplift at Christmas. Last festive season premium wine sales grew 27% in multiple grocers and in 32% in impulse.

Shead says: “Premium wines are already the star performer in impulse at Christmas, and with new and existing shoppers continuing to trade up it is essential we continue to drive this opportunity.”

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