There are certain dates circled in your diary that you know will increase business. Christmas, New Year and Easter are guaranteed to boost sales but generating excitement between these major events can be a lot harder.
However, each year is sprinkled with special days that can add some sparkle to sales. Each of the four British saints' days provides a great excuse to push national brands, and international celebration days - such as Australia Day, the Hindu festival Diwali and Chinese New Year - are becoming recognised dates in the UK calendar.
Vic Grewal, owner of Budgens in Chorleywood, Hertfordshire, is planning to make an occasion of Diwali this year. "It's a really important date in the Asian calendar and we're determined to celebrate the event in the store this year. There's a strong Asian community and we're about to refurbish in March, so we'll have a much broader range of Asian produce. For Diwali, we will dress the store with Indian decorations and candles and have plenty of tastings of bhajis, traditional sweets and other ethnic products."
Paul Wilks from Budgens in Bedgrove, Buckinghamshire, believes there's plenty of opportunity for using seasonal events to drive sales. "It gives us a bit of standout and it's a great way to liven up the customer's shopping experience," he says. "We're always on the lookout for special days and events to celebrate and we'll be doing something for St George's Day, with the Union flag flying and lots of English food tastings. Customers really love our samplings and it's good for business, encouraging shoppers to try something they might not be familiar with."
Wells Bombardier has been campaigning for six years to make St George's Day a national holiday in England and last year it added 100,000 signatures to the petition just from the off trade.
Customer marketing manager Justin Horsman believes there's a £25m deficit that business people are missing out on because they don't get involved. "More and more people want to celebrate St George's Day, but the general consumer doesn't always know what date it is," he says. "It's becoming more and more important in people's calendars, with more brands getting involved - St George's Ale came on board a few years ago, which is now in our portfolio."
This year the festival falls on a Monday and because this isn't a key day for drinking in pubs, retailers are more likely to catch people who want to celebrate at home. Wells Bombardier will be 'The nation's official toast to England and St George', taking place at 10.45pm on April 23.
Horsman says: "To entice customers and independent retailers to get together, we are giving people the chance to win a lordship, with cash and carry displays and brochure advertising. You can also download the petition to get official recognition of St George's Day as a public holiday from the website (www.bombardier.co.uk) and have that in store. And it's simple things such as putting displays at the end of aisles, for example, that will help sales."
St Patrick's Day eclipses other saints' days and is a major celebration across the UK. This year's March 17 festival falls on a Saturday, so will be an even greater opportunity for increased sales of alcohol.
There is no brand more intertwined with St Patrick's Day than Guinness. In 2006 it spent £2.5m on advertising during the run up to the festival and this year's media campaign will increase to £3.5m. This will include TV ads, Sky Sports Rugby Sponsorship, radio advertising and 1,000 in-store pos visibility kits for convenience stores. Some 14,00 retailers will also receive information about St Patrick's Day opportunities.
Guinness senior brand manager Steve Hamilton says: "Thanks to St Patrick's Day last year we grew sales by 8% and sold about two million cans of Guinness draft. The day itself is the largest single day for Guinness sales over the year and in St Patrick's week there's a average uplift of 36% against any other week throughout the year."
Hamilton says that the Guinness shopper spends 36% more than the average beer, wine and spirits shopper, so this is a great opportunity for retailers to increase visibility and sales.
Sporting events also offer great opportunities. This year's Rugby World Cup and the Guinness Premiership should help increase drink sales during the year. Guinness is running a promotion to win a year's supply of Guinness and tickets to the final.
C-Store should reach you on this year's Australia Day, another event that's growing in popularity. It may be one to break the new year slump by increasing sales in brands such as Foster's.
Fosters head of customer marketing Craig Clarkson says: "In the past people have used January to sell excess Christmas stock, but retailers are increasingly getting levels right and are looking for some excitement in the category. Australia Day is perfect timing and obviously a perfect match for Foster's.
"Unless you're Australian, it's not yet the kind of day where most people will organise parties, but if customers are in a convenience store and see displays with a good promotion, such as winning flights to Australia, it gives them a reason to buy something on impulse."
Clarkson says that getting involved in promoting the day is simple. "It's mostly about display - making sure you have cold beer for people and that it's in the right place. We have some shipper units called hood boxes that if space is at a premium, you can reassemble into a display stand where it can stand on the floor or the counter."
First Drinks Brands, which owns the Glenfiddich brand, estimates that if sales outside of Christmas grow by only 5%, it will add £6m in revenue to the malt category and £5.5m for liqueurs, showing the importance of celebrations to the convenience sector.
"The celebrations calendar offers a great opportunity for the whisky category with occasions such as Burns' Night, Father's Day and St Andrew's Day," says marketing director Katie Rawll. "Think carefully about product positioning, merchandising and display and use the FWD Blueprint for Spirits to help maximise sales. By stocking the right spirit brands, retailers can ensure that they maximise often limited shop space with an exciting and visible spirits fixture which can be highlighted further at key times of the year with additional pos and sampling."
Manufacturers are doing their
bit to push sales throughout the year so it's now up to retailers to give customers a reason to party - and you too could have reason to celebrate.
Days to remember
Chinese New Year (Year of the pig) February 18
St David's Day
St Patrick's Day March 17
St George's Day April 23
St Andrew's Day November 30