Start stocking festive confectionery early in advance and shoppers will keep coming back for more as Christmas draws closer and your range expands.

Christmas is certainly the season to be jolly if you’re a retailer. Although year-on-year sales remain flat, confectionery was worth a whopping £697m in the run up to Christmas 2014. What’s more, £1 in every £12 of small store value was spent on confectionery in the final quarter of the year, and the small store average total basket spend increased by 14% during December, according to Mondelez International.

But December is far too late for retailers to be thinking about Christmas. “Display is critical and needs to be in place by the end of September as 34% of Christmas confectionery is bought on impulse,” says Mondelez trade communications manager Susan Nash.

Timing is everything, agrees Nestlé Confectionery, which claims that seasonal impulse confectionery should be the number one area of focus at Christmas for convenience retailers. “Early season sales are incremental to all year round confectionery singles, and they also act as a signpost for the Christmas season in store so therefore visibility is key to maximising sales,” says shopper marketing manager Rosamunde Hobson. “Early season impulse shoppers are also extremely valuable; they spend the most per trip (£2.70 versus £2.61 for mid-season shoppers and £2.37 for late season shoppers) and shop the most frequently throughout the season as they are attracted by the novelty of these products.”

Christmas is the second biggest event in the confectionery calendar in terms of value sales and retailers should start planning as soon as possible, adds Cloetta UK.

“We would advise planning displays and ranges well in advance,” says commercial manager Bev Seymour. “Retailers should subtly signpost the festive season by stocking ‘eat now’ products in October, while Halloween is still on-shelf. In November, retailers can begin increasing their Christmas range and its prominence in-store, with advent calendars and selection boxes. During December retailers should use dumpbins and gondola ends to promote last minute gifts and stocking fillers.”

Jon Ellis, who owns Town Common News in Christchurch, Dorset, wastes no time in getting his Christmas sales off the ground. “We start displaying a smattering of everything from mid-September to let people know that we stock it,” he says.

Spar Binnian Fresh Foods in Kilkeel, Co. Down, Northern Ireland, is also quick to ensure that Christmas goodies are on show from the off. “We start putting our Christmas confectionery out from September. Within impulse, the popping candy Cadbury Freddos and the Cadbury Snowman go really well,” says assistant manager Susan Haugh. “By November, we have 4m of Christmas confectionery, plus dumpbins and hods.”

The Cadbury Dairy Milk Snowman is the biggest treat brand at Christmas, worth £3.1m in 2014, while 2.9m units of festive Freddo Popping Candy were sold in 2014. Both will be returning this year.

In Edinburgh, Best-one Saughton Mains Gardens introduces its Christmas offering a little later. “We bring out the smaller Christmas confectionery items just after Halloween and then in November we bring out the larger items,” says Tanika Bassi, who runs the store with husband Mandeep. “We have school kids nearby. They really get into the excitement of Christmas, more so than the adults. They buy items such as chocolate sharing bags.”

New chocolate sharing bags this year include 93g pouches of Cadbury Heroes (rrp: £1.49), which are exclusive to the impulse channel, and the Maltesers Mini Merryteaser Reindeer sharing bag (rrp: £1.29) from Mars Chocolate UK.

Neil Babington, who owns Scott Street Convenience Stores in Galashiels, Scotland, holds off on bringing out any festive stock until the month before Christmas. “I start stocking the Christmas treat products - the wee Cadbury Snowman, Galaxy Gifts and the Quality Street Big Purple One - from mid-November. We have a Christmas deal at Premier where we sell them at 40p each or three for £1.”

Gary Bilbrough is also reluctant to put out Christmas stock until November at the Nisa Local he manages in Toddington, Bedfordshire. “I haven’t got much promotional space, so we only have one seasonal bay. Normally, I try to put Christmas stock out in November because you still have Halloween to go through in September and October. We put treat products on shelves built into the counter too, we sold a lot of chocolate coins last year.”

Another area that Gary has seen success in is advent calendars. “We do very well with advent calendars - a couple of years ago I went with Cadbury and Kinnerton lines. The Kinnerton ones were a bit cheaper, but the Cadbury ones sold out first. We sold over 200. We put one up by the counter so that people knew we sold them and then put a hod of them where our ice cream freezer is.”

Kamar Bhella, owner of Broadway Wine Lodge Lifestyle Express in Featherstone, Wolverhampton also sells plenty. “Advent calendars go really well here. Generally Mums buy them for their kids. We have two schools nearby so it’s a big family area. Selection boxes are another good seller, we stock both Cadbury and Mars brands.”

In 2014, the Cadbury medium selection box contributed to 42% of total selection box retail sales value, according to Mondelez, which claims that Cadbury Dairy Milk’s brand awareness at Christmas was 89% last year.

At Spar Binnion, Selection Boxes are a core part of Susan’s offering too. “We order 200 selection boxes for the nearby churches for Sunday School classes. It’s the same with local schools. We were selling two Cadbury boxes for £5 last year. They always sell better than all the other boxes.”

But of course the success of different pack formats is very much dependent on a store’s customer base and with convenience being such a diverse channel, there’s no guaranteeing that what works in one store will work in another. “It’s not worth me putting out selection boxes,” says Neil. “I got them in one year and I was left with tons of them.”

He has, however, seen strong sales of giant tubes: “Giant tubes sell very well, Smarties were our best seller last year.”

Giant tubes are the ultimate traditional stocking filler with 80% of sales coming from the top 12 products, says Nestlé. This includes the firm’s entire range which accounts for a huge 50% of sales with Smarties the top seller. Availability in the early season is important as 19% of sales in this sector are in the early season and are therefore key to driving frequency of purchase, says Hobson.

Tubes remain an integral part of Christmas, agrees Mars, which is the number two manufacturer in this format. Maltesers, Galaxy Minstrels, M&M’s and Milky Way all rank in the top 12 tubes of the category. “Chocolate remains a staple in households across the country during the festive period. It’s an intrinsic part of Christmas, so it’s unsurprising that it’s the number one gift during this time,” says trade communications manager Bep Dhaliwal.

Chocolate alternatives

But it’s not all about chocolate this Christmas. Sugar is the only subcategory within Christmas Confectionery to have grown, states Cloetta. Valued at £242m, sugar confectionery has grown 3% in the last year, with NPD driving growth.

“Traditionally there is a heavy bias towards chocolate in the Christmas market, but we are seeing more Christmas sugar confectionery,” says Seymour. “Last year, our Chewits selection boxes were close to selling out before Christmas, indicating that consumers are starting their shopping early and looking for alternatives to chocolate confectionery.”

Chewits Selection Box will return this year, containing lines from the brand’s core and Xtreme range. “It offers a strong point of difference as it is one of the few chewy sweet selection boxes available on the market during the festive season,” says Seymour. The branded shelf ready packaging is ideal for smaller retailers where shelf space is precious, she adds.

Eye-catching pos

Retailers should utilise pos material to ensure their Christmas displays stand out, says Mondelez International’s Susan Nash. “Visibility is crucial - the more you can do, the more you’ll make,” she says. “Floor standing units give retailers flexibility on what to put in them, but allow confectionery to stand out. I’d recommend putting them out from mid-September. In tests we ran where retailers used them for the first time, seasonal sales value increased 92%!”

“People get a lot of chocolate for Christmas, so I guess it’s nice to have something different,” says Gary, who recorded healthy sugar sales last year. “We had a yard box of Swizzels Matlow designed to look like a Christmas cracker. It was £2.99 and we got five hods of them and placed them around the store. They were easy to display and dot around and they sold out.” Christmas Bassetts Trio and Haribo tubs sold well too, he notes.

Haribo has continued to grow its share of the Christmas market and this year the firm has introduced a Duo Tub. Bringing together sweet and sour, each re-sealable Duo Tub includes Tangfastics and Starmix in their own separate compartment.

Also joining Haribo’s sharing line-up is Share the Fun Tub, which secured its position in the top 10 Christmas sharing products in 2014 after experiencing growth of 38.2%.

Neil has already seen good results from sugar confectionery tubs: “Last year we had Bassetts tubs. They sold very well on promotion at half price.” He also had high demand for tins of Roses. “The big tins of Roses sold well. We sold them at a fiver. It was the same price as the supermarkets so we could compete.”

Tubs, tins and cartons

Susan had a strong promotion on tins too. “We always have a product of the week organised by Hendersons. Last year we had tins of sweets, such as Roses, Quality Street, Heroes and Celebrations on offer at two for £8. We did really well. We had 20 tins left on Christmas Eve and they all sold. Big tins go really well. Now that they’re cheaper, they’re seen as better value, even though they are smaller than they used to be.”

Convenience Store’s Sales Assistant of the Year 2014 Anita Nye, who works at Eldred Drive Stores in Orpington, Kent, hasn’t had the same access to tin promotions, but is confident that cartons will do well. “Obviously, we can’t compete with supermarkets doing £4 on tins when they’re £8 for us to buy at wholesale - it’s not worth it, so that’s a shame. Mondelez aren’t concentrating on smaller stores for tins, but we get deals on cartons.”

Mondelez cartons are worth £69m combined at Christmas. The firm says that 16% of households buy Heroes and has announced that Wispa will be joining the lineup for 2015.

Meanwhile, over 6.2m cartons of Cadbury Roses were purchased last year. A new Almond Caramel bite will feature in cartons this year. Back in May, the sweets ditched their twistwrap packaging in favour of flow wraps, claiming that twistwrap quality wasn’t up to scratch.

Nevertheless, Twistwrap remains one of the key categories for retailers at Christmas, accounting for 30% of all seasonal confectionery sales, according to Nestlé. A huge 7.8 million households buy twistwrap confectionery during the early season, with nearly 45% returning in the mid to late season, claims the firm.

This year, four out of the 12 Quality Street sweets will benefit from new and improved recipes, including the Toffee Penny, Toffee Finger and Orange Crème. The brand will also see the rollout of a newly renovated packaging design, giving it a more premium look.

“With shoppers who give twistwrap confectionery as a gift spending 71p more per shopping trip than those who buy it to share, packs for gifting are important to the category,” says Hobson. “The Quality Street 350g gift carton (rrp: £4.38) remains the must stock pack, with twistwrap cartons providing a perfect solution for the distress shopping mission important to the convenience channel.” She claims that the eight sweet Mini Carton (rrp: £1) is also ideal for the sector.

These days 59% of twistwrap confectionery is eaten during an evening, with half of all consumers sharing their sweet treats with more than three people, more than three times a week, says Nestlé. The Quality Street Tub (rrp: £8.05) grew 4.5% in 2014. The brand will benefit from a new heavyweight media campaign this Christmas, featuring TV advertising and digital media.

Boxed chocolates

Another major focus within Christmas gifting and sharing is boxed chocolates. “Boxed chocolates are bought by 82% of households in the UK, which is more than any other confectionery sector,” says Hobson. “During the Christmas season they are bought by six million more households than throughout the rest of the year, demonstrating their importance to the season.”

With the vast majority of boxed chocolates not having themed packaging, they are a relatively low risk purchase for c-stores.

“Boxed Chocolates are great for gifting as Christmas is all about spending time together so people are more likely to buy into them, and they don’t have to be Christmas-specific products,” says Ferrero UK customer development director Levi Boorer.

Gary concurs: “With certain lines you have decorative themed packs, but with boxed chocolates, we just pile up standard boxes as part of the display.

“Last year, the large boxes of Thorntons sold well. We sold them at £5. It was only a single tray, but really big, and they flew out. People were buying them as gifts.”

Anita also ran a successful Thorntons promotion. “Our Christmas confectionery sold well last year, especially through the Premier promotions in October. They do a Christmas promotion which gets people interested with big boxes of Thorntons chocolates for £5 instead of £11.”

Ferrero boxed chocolates also had a good run last Christmas, growing significantly ahead of the market (up 12.2% in value sales and 5.5% in volume), according to Boorer, with Ferrero Rocher sales up 2%, Ferrero Collection up 24% and Raffaello up 17%.

This year, the brands will benefit from a £3.6m marketing investment. Last year’s Ferrero Rocher Christmas TV creative will run for seven weeks from November 9, in addition to video on demand, digital, in-store shopper marketing and nationwide sampling activity. Ferrero Collection will also feature on TV from December 7 for three weeks and Raffaello will be supported with video on demand, digital, print, in-store media and nationwide sampling.

With big confectioners investing heavily this season, there’s everything to play for. Start planning your festive display now and you’ll be set for a very merry Christmas indeed.

Children’s confectionery

The latest seasonal launches to keep kiddies happy this Christmas

The total kids seasonal impulse category is now worth £10.7m and accounts for 73% of total seasonal impulse sales, according to Nestlé (IRI). Within this, Nestlé Confectionery’s range grew 4% in 2014 and is now worth £1.5m. The Smarties Little Choc Penguin and the white chocolate Milkybar Polar Bear Cub (rrp: 65p) are both back for 2015. The former grew 8% in 2014.

Ferrero is also hoping for strong sales within kids confectionery. This Christmas will see the introduction of a T48 Kinder Surprise winter pack (rrp: 86p). Ferrero is encouraging retailers to get behind the seasonal exclusive with its eye-catching countertop unit. Kinder is now worth almost £93m with Kinder Surprise representing £52.5m of this (Nielsen).

Kinder Chocolate Happy (rrp: £2) will also join the seasonal line-up. The product comprises a sharing bag of 12 individually foil-wrapped Kinder Chocolates in seasonal shapes.


Weird and wonderful festive offerings

Weighing in at a whopping 1kg each, Hancocks Cash & Carry’s Giant Sweets make fun gifts for consumers looking for something a little different. With a giant jelly baby or a giant gummy worm measuring over two feet long retailers can earn 34% margin. The cash & carry also stocks Lindt’s Milk Chocolate Santa which weighs 1kg and measures 43.5cm in height.

American Christmas-themed treats are already flying off shelves, claims Hancocks. Earning the retailer margins of up to 46% are products such as Reese’s Peanut Butter Christmas Tree, All American Candy USA Hampers, Reese’s USA Tray, Wonka USA Tray, and Reese’s Snowman.

Offering sweets that come with toys are also a must over Christmas, claims Hancocks. Its Plush Reindeer and winter snuggly Teddy Bear with festive-themed treats make gifts suited to children and adults alike. Retailers can earn up to 43% with the Hancocks Musical Tractor, Santa’s Delivery Van and Fire Engine complete with chocolate or sugar confectionery.


Premium novelties

Upmarket offerings could help you stand out from the crowd

If local competition is hot, then it can be extremely difficult to compete on mainstream festive items, such as selection boxes and tubs. So a number of retailers are looking at premium items to differentiate themselves.

“Last year, Christmas confectionery sales didn’t perform well because of price competition locally - a discount store had just opened,” says Jon Ellis of Town Common News in Christchurch, Dorset. “I’m hoping to change the offer this year. I’ll be looking to get premium items, such as Anton Berg liqueurs, to offer a point of difference.”

Gary Bilbrough of Nisa Toddington in Bedfordshire, has already discovered a demand for premium products that he didn’t know existed. “Lindt Reindeers did really well last year,” he says. “They were £6.99, which isn’t cheap, so I was quite surprised. I couldn’t get enough of them.”

Scott Street Convenience Stores in Galashiels, Scotland, is set to stock more premium offerings for 2015. “I think I’ll go down the high-end route this year,” says owner Neil Babington. “We already stock some Ferrero at Christmas and it sells really well, so I’ll look at stocking more items from Ferrero and Thorntons. I think customers will pay for something different. I’ll try to buy on sale or return to avoid the risk of leftover stock.”

New to the Thorntons Christmas range this year is the Snowman & Snowdog gift pack (rrp: £10) which contains two creamy white chocolate figures and three milk chocolate parcels. There’s also a 175g Gruffalo Model 175g (rrp: £8) and the new 80g Gruffalo’s Child Model (rrp: £3.50).

Ferrero has released a bigger version of Ferrero Grand Rocher. “The 240g pack (rrp: £8.99) will be available this Christmas, helping retailers capitalise on the growing trend of premium gifting,” says customer development director Levi Boorer.

After-dinner mints continue to draw shoppers at Christmas

After-dinner sharing occasions are in long-term growth, up 32%, with post-6pm occasions increasing 42%, claims Nestlé.

After Eight has the highest loyalty from one Christmas to the next of any boxed chocolate, with 68% of shoppers who bought in 2013 returning to buy in 2014, says the firm. In addition, After Eight shoppers typically spend 43% more on Christmas confectionery.

New for 2015, and ideal for the informal sharing occasion, is After Eight Straws (rrp: £3.49), which Nestlé hopes will attract a new generation of boxed chocolate consumers.

The classic 300g pack remains a must stock for c-store retailers, as well as the 200g carton, which is ideal for the convenience channel, advises Nestlé.

Storck UK agrees that after-dinner mints are a must for convenience retailers. Research shows three times more households buy into after-dinner mints at Christmas, claims the company. “With 28% of consumers making a repeat purchase, retailers should ensure they stock the right range and highlight promotions as early as September to drive trial and meet consumer demand for sharing occasions nearer to Christmas,” says sales director Andy Mutton.”36% of consumers say that after-dinner mints are an essential part of Christmas, so it is increasingly important for retailers to capitalise on this trend.” He claims that Bendicks is the fastest-growing brand within the after-dinner mint category (up 16.4% year-on-year).



Toffifee unveils new pack size

Toffifee is launching a new 250g pack into the impulse channel. The pack size is suited to both individual consumption and gifting.

Mars releases seasonal gift card

Mars Chocolate is capitalising on the popularity of its Merryteasers with its new Maltesers Mini Merryteaser Reindeer Gift Card (rrp: £3).

Hancocks delivers festive range

Hancocks’ new Let it Snow range includes a Giant Coin and Milk Chocolate and White Chocolate Coin Nets, which offer a 35% margin when sold at rrp. Also available are fondant-filled Stars, Reindeers & Red Noses, Santas & Snowballs, and Chocolate Pops.Reindeer Droppings at £1 a pack make for a fun novelty.

Jelly treats from Mondelez

Bassetts Santa Babies from Mondelez International are aimed at those looking for an alternative to chocolate this Christmas. Priced at £1.32 for a 165g bag, packs contain a mix of berry-flavoured jellies.

Quality packaging is up your Street

New from Nestlé’s Quality Street this Christmas is the lantern-shaped 315g Gift Carton (rrp £3.99) and 240g Mini Tin (rrp £3). The Mini Tin was launched as an exclusive with one retail chain in 2014.