Novelty confectionery is a great way to differentiate your store and excite customers over the Christmas period, but if you really want to have a successful season, and avoid festive leftovers, then be sure to stock plenty of all-year-round gifting options too.

We might have had a long hot summer, but that hasn’t stopped plenty of you from whipping out your Christmas stock to cash in on some early sales and flag up to consumers that their local store is well-stocked for the festive season.

“We had the first drop in-store in mid-August and some of it was on shelf straight away,” says Wayne Norris of Norris Family Grocers in Ventnor, Isle of Wight. “We put out the £1 tubes of Jelly Tots and Milkybar Buttons, Quality Street and Cadbury Hero tubs, plus big bulk bags of Guylian and Heroes, and large Toblerones.

“Locals do moan about it, but Tesco had their Christmas stuff out already so it’s becoming more and more part of the norm. If you don’t get it out we’re only going to lose the sale. I’d rather people know we have it than it be sat in the warehouse.”

Jeeta Bhadal, who co-owns a One Stop and Londis in Woodhouse, Leeds, was also quick off the mark. “Tubs have been in-store since August and they sell straight away,” he says. “Certain Christmas lines like the tubs cater for Halloween as well.”

Once Halloween is done and dusted then sales of festive lines really start racking up. “Shoppers are getting more and more excited about Christmas every year, with UK Christmas retail sales topping £44bn in 2017 [Mintel December 2017],” states Mondelez International trade communications manager Susan Nash. The firm’s treat range kick-starts the season with the Cadbury Dairy Milk Mousse Snowman and Snow Bites carton.

Also present for another year is the Maltesers reindeer - the number one selling treat at Christmas [Nielsen Chocolate Total Coverage, Self-Eat and Small sharing Mini/Business segment MAT WE 24th December 2017].

“A higher degree of permissibility means that treating is highly relevant at Christmas,” says Mars Wrigley Confectionery brand and trade PR manager Lauren George. “We know that three chocolate treats are bought every second during Christmas in the UK but, as an impulsive and expandable category, there is always headroom for chocolate to grow.”

“Treat items come in during late September,” says Jeeta. “We tend to put them out straight after Halloween. The earlier you get the stock in, the better, as consumers start buying it early. Lindt reindeer sell well and Maltesers Reindeer too. We sell them at three for £1. They’re impulse lines so we have them on the counter.”

Kay Patel, who owns seven Bestway-supplied stores in East London, is equally keen to get the snowball of sales rolling. “We sell loads of treat products,” he says. “We get them in as early as we can get them. They sell quicker initially than they do closer to Christmas.”

Wayne is eager to find unusual products that he knows will gain him extra sales.

“I always look out for different stuff, it will always sell. Last year we had sugar confectionery sweets in tiny glass jars. It was a good stocking filler. You’re always paying over the odds for that kind of thing, but people will buy them because it’s for Christmas,” he says.

Indeed, novelty gifts may well be the lines that enable c-stores to differentiate themselves from the competition. Mars Wrigley Confectionery UK has launched the Maltesers Reindeer Small Novelty, which contains two standard and two Mini Reindeer, and M&M’s Small Novelty, which contains four bags of M&M’s Chocolate Funsize, both rrp £3.

Over in the Ferrero camp, Grand Ferrero Rocher 125g grew by over 20% last year, adding £390,000 to the novelty category, the firm claims.

And this year, the company has big plans for Thorntons. Joining the Jolly Reindeer and The Snowman figures, which delivered double digit growth to the category last year, is the Cheeky Elf available in 60g (rrp £2) and 200g (rrp £5) formats. The brand will run an on-pack promotion across the Cheeky Elf 200g packs, offering shoppers the chance to win a trip to Lapland.

Kinder will also be expanding its novelty range with new 36g Kinder Surprise Hollow Figures, including a snowman (rrp £1.80). Kinder Joy, which Ferrero claims grew by 31% last Christmas, will return this year with new collectable winter eggs.

Of course, while novel items will play a key role in your Christmas confectionery offering, it isn’t smart to stock too many. “To compete with the supermarkets you have to have a point of difference where you can,” says Jeeta. “But I buy a limited amount of Christmas-specific products because you’re stuck with the stock afterwards if you don’t sell it. I think there are a lot of retailers now buying more all-year-round [AYR] gifts that they can still sell afterwards.”

One product that may well tick such a box is the Toffee Twin from Walkers Nonsuch. The gift pack contains two big chunky toffee bars with a toffee hammer (rrp £3).

Mars Wrigley Confectionery’s Maltesers Truffles, which launched in June, are also worth your consideration. “Maltesers Truffles are a totally new format of Maltesers special enough to gift to family and friends this holiday season,” says George. A 54g Token Gift Box has an rrp of £1.99; while the 200g gift box is priced at £4.99.

Ferrero also has plenty to offer within the AYR gifting segment. “C-store retailers should focus on the core range to make sure their Christmas sales can continue throughout the year,” says customer development director Boorer. “The Ferrero Rocher 200g [T16] pack is an AYR mainstay but has a lot of seasonal relevance too.”

Wayne notes that more premium chocolates offer a higher cash margin. “You make a little more cash with lines like Ferrero Rocher and Lindt,” he says. “When we have them at half price, we’ll make maybe 10%, so 50-60p, as opposed to £5 tubs where we’re making 4p.”

Ferrero has also unveiled Thorntons Pearls, a premium AYR option in the boxed chocolate category. The chocolate balls come in salted caramel and nutty crunch variants and both 167g packs have an rrp of £4.99. “Aimed at younger consumers of boxed chocolate (with a sweet spot of 25-34 year old women), the Thorntons Pearls range is perfect for the sharing occasion, which is worth £84m and growing at 6%,” says Boorer.

Mondelez is also tapping into the gifting market, revealing a new festive Toblerone gifting sleeve on the 360g block (rrp £5.49) that consumers can personalise. The firm has also launched a large 750g block (rrp £9.99), and a gifting pack (rrp £7.49) featuring five 100g bars in a selection of milk, dark, fruit & nut and white flavours.

Another gift that has launched in time for Christmas is Lir Chocolate’s Discover Collection (rrp £10), which has returned to UK shelves for the first time in a decade. The box was relaunched in Ireland for Christmas 2017 and saw a 100% sales increase year-on-year. The 16-piece rose gold Discovery Collection includes pecan caramel, salted caramel and Persian lime chocolates.

Storck is also hungry for a bite of the boxed chocolate market this Christmas, advising retailers to stock 100g and 400g packs of Toffifee. The brand is returning to screens with a £2.5m campaign, running from autumn for seven weeks. The firm claims that the ad will be viewed by 37 million consumers. Last year, Toffifee’s Christmas advert delivered a 48% uplift in rate of sale.

An exciting selection of festive novelties, alongside a trusted range of gifting products, will create enough Christmas magic to enthrall your customers, whilst ensuring that you end up with minimal themed stock post 24th December. Start planning your confectionery strategy now and you’ll be set up for a very merry Christmas indeed.

Kay Patel has Christmas wrapped up

Kay Patel’s gift-wrapped confectionery selections are a real showstopper, and they keep the till ringing too. “My mum and sister wrap up a selection of products in cellophane around seasonal occasions,” he says. “Initially, it was just for a bit of in-store theatre because it looks good in-store. But now it’s a big thing for us, we sell a lot.”

The packs are prepared several weeks in advance and put on display in all of Kay’s stores. “Before the season gets going we put them out on top of fridges and top shelves and then closer to the time we give up an offer bay especially for them,” he says. They are so popular that they now take orders for them. “They start from £4.99, all the way up to £49.99 and we make margins of between 30 and 50% depending on whether they contain branded products, which make less margin.”


Retro a go-go

Storck is hoping to steal the show with the nostalgic Werther’s Original Christmas Caramel Shop Box (rrp: £2.99). “With the iconic caramel shop advert having been on air for the last seven years and a spend of £28m over this period, it has proved a roaring success with 57 million consumers having seen the ad at least once in the run up to Christmas last year,” says managing director Andy Mutton. “With the advertising continuing this year, on air for the last two weeks of November, retailers can capitalise on what will be quick brand recognition and association in store from shoppers as well as the emotional pull the advert will harness.” The box contains Butter Candies, Eclairs and Soft Caramels.

Mondelez is also appealing to fans of retro confectionery with the Sweet Shop Pouch. Featuring Cadbury Dairy Milk, Caramel, Fudge, Eclairs and Maynards Bassetts Lemon Sherbets, the Sweet Shop pouch (rrp £6.29) is deemed ideal for the adults to share.

Tangerine Confectionery is tapping into the trend for old-school sweets too with its new 630g Barratt Retro Tub (rrp £3), which contains a mix of classic sherbets and chews like Black Jack, Refreshers and Dip Dabs.

The firm has also launched Wham and Fruit Salad tubes (both rrp £1).


Mars Wrigley Confectionery shares its top seasonal tips

Starting promotions on boxed chocolate earlier in the season can help kick start the season to drive a fast start, however it is important to capitalise on sales opportunities in the final week. Promotions should be held at this point to drive value sales

The final two weeks leading up to Christmas are worth £164m and represent 21.8% of total season sales, so retailers should ensure they are fully stocked with a range of chocolate products right up to Christmas Day

Consumers are willing to spend and indulge more at key calendar events like Christmas, leading to a trend in more premium purchases. This has been evident in the strong performance of the gift and boxed segments. Convenience retailers should ensure they are fully stocked with these products early in the year

Use all the point of sale material available to you to create in-store theatre that makes iconic products unmissable in-store

Significant sales uplift can be achieved with positioning closer to the entrance

Capitalise on the impulsivity and expandability of the confectionery category by placing confectionery at multiple points around the store

Drive last chance purchases in queue and at till point. These locations drive purchase penetration by up to 60%

Tubs are a critical part of the Christmas range, with many saying that the Christmas season doesn’t really start until they see them in-store. They should be pushed early on in the season in order to drive a fast start and generate category growth.