Shoppers might still be visiting stores for barbecue, ice cream and soft drinks deals at the moment, but in the fast-moving world of convenience retail it’s time to start planning for Christmas! 

Shoppers might still be visiting stores for barbecue, ice cream and soft drinks deals at the moment, but in the fast-moving world of convenience retail it’s time to start planning for Christmas! With a plethora of festive counter top treats, moulded shapes, tubes, selection boxes and boxed chocolates, retailers are spoilt for choice when it comes to Christmas confectionery, but stocking the right range is very much down to your individual customer base, local competition, and cost price.

For Chirag Patel, who owns a Best-One in Battersea, London, tubs aren’t an option. “We can’t do the big tubs,” he says. “The prices that the supermarkets offer are hard to beat and after the 25th, you’re stuck with it and have to sell it at a discount.”

It’s a similar story with tins for Costcutter Chalet Supermarket in Portadown, Northern Ireland. “Last year it was difficult with the large tins due to the price point because a lot of our competition sold them at £5.99 and we weren’t able to,” says supervisor Feargal Sherry-Toner. “The Roses pouches all sold well though. We had them in mixed, caramel and strawberry flavours.”

Meanwhile, Tony Cristofaro, who runs a Spar in Landmark Place, Cardiff, has managed to sell tubs at a competitive price in the past, but is reluctant to get too carried away because the margins are poor. “We have Heroes, Celebrations and Roses tubs, but not in huge quantities,” he says. “We sell them at £5 as Spar tries to copy Tesco, but there’s not much profit in it. You have to hope people will buy those and then pick up something else too.”

Londis Yealmpton in Devon also sold their tubs in line with surrounding competition. “Last year was our first Christmas as a convenience store, after knocking down and rebuilding the old garage shop,” says assistant manager Peter Wickett. “We didn’t know how it would go as we have a Tesco and Morrisons within six miles of us, but people seem to do a big shop and then come here as well.

“We had a large stock of Christmas confectionery and it all sold well. We had Roses, Celebrations and Heroes tubs on at two for £10 to compete with the multiples.”

Mars Chocolate UK claims boxed chocolate sales accounted for 74% of total Christmas chocolate confectionery sales, with the Celebrations tub remaining the number one brand, worth £41.7m.

Selection boxes were also a hit for Londis Yealmpton, but the store simply couldn’t keep up with demand. “We were caught out with selection boxes,” explains Peter. “We didn’t order enough and we couldn’t find any more to order once we’d sold out. If anything, we’ll increase the amount of selection boxes and tubs we order as last year it was getting harder to order them the closer it got to Christmas.”

Iris Penney, who owns The Store in Badminton, Gloucestershire, with husband Tim, avoids ordering problems by doing her Christmas shop at Hancocks. “We use Booker throughout the year, but because I order online, a lot of the time it’s out of stock, so I find a quick run down to Hancocks is useful for key seasonal items,” she says. “They sell selection boxes so cheaply and they have all the big brands. We also buy Hancocks’ novelty chocolate moulds and gift packs.”

Christmas treats

Hancocks witnessed a 45% uplift in Christmas sales from 2014 to 2015 and purchasing director Jonathan Summerley expects this trend to continue for Christmas 2016. The group’s top three best-selling confectionery lines were Gold Coins, Candy Canes and Mallow Pops, which make up part of its Let It Snow range. The cash & carry offers over 190 festive lines, including chocolate moulds and jelly and chocolate-themed lollies, and over 60 £1 products with retailer margins of up to 63%.

“We recommend retailers to start building their Christmas confectionery displays immediately following the busy Halloween trading period, so from early November, retailers can start to add small impulse Christmas-themed sweets and chocolate to their existing ranges to encourage early seasonal sales,” advises Summerley.

“From late November, retailers can consider creating exciting window displays, whilst adding gift ranges to their offering, not forgetting edible Christmas decorations and chocolate Santas which make for excellent secret Santa gifts for office parties. Last minute stocking filler suggestions positioned near the till, on gondola ends and in window displays, can help add to the excitement and in store theatre whilst driving incremental margin opportunities in the last few days running up to Christmas Eve.”

However, the topic of when to start displaying Christmas confectionery is very much up for debate. “The appearance of tubs in-store signifies the beginning of Christmas for the consumer, so retailers are advised to make sure there is strong availability of the Celebrations tub from September onwards,” says Bep Dhaliwal, trade communications manager at Mars Chocolate UK.

On the other hand, Mondelez International believes retailers should start stocking treat products in October, before introducing advent and novelty sharing lines in November, and waiting until December to introduce selection boxes, Christmas-themed gifts, family sharing lines and top-up gifts.

Iris prefers to start small. “I think it’s wrong to start Christmas too early, but we can’t leave it too late either. We start with small, individual products in mid-September. We have Victorian bay windows and we put up a Christmas display of Christmas chocolates in mid-October so that people know we stock them in the run-up to Christmas. We also add bigger items in-store, such as chocolate moulds and tins of After Eights.”

Costcutter Chalet Supermarket takes a similar approach. “We have a dedicated seasonal display by the store entrance and some treat products on the countertop. We start the display small and then grow it as it gets closer to Christmas,” says Fearghal. “Because it’s phased, people don’t mind it. Last year, people were glad to see the products early because of money issues as it meant they could buy a couple of tubes at a time during the build up to Christmas.”

Tony doesn’t waste any time in getting all his products out on-shelf. “We start displaying products once they arrive from Blakemore in October,” he says. “There’s no point in putting it in the stock room. You do get comments from customers about it being too early, but we tell them we’re just giving them ideas for Christmas!”

But Londis Yealmpton opts to wait until closer to Christmas before embracing festive lines. “We started stocking everything from the second week in November,” says Peter.

One thing that everyone seems to agree on though is that seasonal treat products are a c-store winner. “We sold a lot of the treat items last year – Cadbury Snowman and Merryteasers,” says Tony. “We had them in Cadbury free-standing units dotted around the store. They work well for us as they’re a grab and go product and we’re right by a train station.”

The same lines were also a success at Chirag’s store. “If you put things on the countertop then people will buy them, so we sold some Cadbury Snowman and Merryteasers last year.”

Peter also saw success with smaller products. “We sold Cadbury Snowman and foil-wrapped Father Christmas and Reindeer treats, which sold really well,” he says. “We offered them at three for £1.50, which was a good price. Cadbury Snowbites did extremely well too. We were going through three boxes a week.”

Iris was overwhelmed by demand for treat products at The Store. “Last year we stocked Galaxy Gift, Cadbury Stars and Quality Street The Purple One,” she says. “They sold very well.”

Nestlé is adding to its Quality Street treat offering for 2016 with a Honeycomb Crunch impulse bar (rrp 65p). This will replace last year’s Green and Orange bars.

The Cadbury Snowman and Mars Merryteasers were also hugely popular for Iris. “I initially had five outers of both and they flew out,” she says. “Merryteasers were our bestseller overall. I think the small confectionery items will do well again this year. As well as buying them as a treat, people buy them to fill their own advent calendars.”

Mars Chocolate UK states that one in three households buy a treat product over the festive period , adding that the Maltesers Merryteaser Reindeer was the number one treat in Christmas 2015. “In addition, the Merryteaser Sharing Bag was ranked the number two sharing bag in its first Christmas last year, and with the small sharing category now up 32% growth , it is guaranteed to fly off the shelves once again!” says Dhaliwal.

This year, Merryteaser will be supported by in store activation, including a range of POS material and pre-filled solutions, to raise awareness and boost impulse purchases. The firm’s top 10 Christmas treat Galaxy Gift For You White is also returning for another year with a new look to drive standout.

Make space for all confectionery tastes this Christmas

Mondelez is livening up the sugar confectionery market with a Wine Gums Merry Mix bag (rrp £1.32) and a Merry Mix Snowman plastic jar (rrp £5.99). “Gum and candy over-indexes in October to Christmas,” claims brand executive Anna Zeller.

Costcutter Chalet Supermarket in Portadown’s assistant supervisor Feargal Sherry-Toner agrees: “It’s not all about chocolate – boxes of fruit pastilles and wine gums sell well too.”

Londis Yealmpton in Devon has also found sugar confectionery to be a good seller at Christmas. “We do big boxes of Maynards Bassetts Santa Babies and Liquorice Allsorts and Wine Gums and they all go well,” says assistant manager Peter Wickett.

Sugar confectionery is also in demand at The Store in Badminton, Gloucestershire. “Not everybody eats chocolate, so I try to offer a range of things, such as candy canes and jelly lollies,” says owner Iris Penney. “We also have a range of old-fashioned sweets that customers buy as gifts for Dads.”

Festive treats are the biggest opportunity in the convenience channel due to their impulsivity, claims Mondelez International. “These products help to signpost the Christmas season and provide a great opportunity to start seasonal sales off early by driving excitement,” says trade communications manager Susan Nash. “Shoppers are looking to buy a festive treat for themselves and family to build excitement at the start and throughout the season.”

Cadbury Dairy Milk (CDM) Mousse Snowman Vanilla and Chocolate variants are back for 2016, as well as CDM Freddo Popping Candy, and number one sharing novelty Cadbury Dairy Milk Snow Bites, which grew in sales by 130% in 2015.

Anna Zeller, Christmas brand executive for Mondelez International, adds: “Traditional Christmas is getting later and November is delivering less and less year-on-year, which is a problem we need to solve. So we need innovation to kick-start it and signpost early season.” With this in mind, the firm has developed Snow Balls (rrp £2.99) , a reworking of its Easter Egg ‘n’ Spoon product, which it claims was the season’s number one self-eat product with a retail sales value of £2.2m in 2015.

In an additional bid to encourage more sales, Cadbury is launching a c-store exclusive competition whereby customers who purchase three or more Cadbury products at a time will be rewarded with a scratchcard offering them the chance to win £500, with the retailer being rewarded Love2Shop vouchers for an equal amount.

What’s more, the Cadvent campaign will return in 2016 with a £10m spend with new creative, experiential and in-store activity. This will be supported by Cadbury truck-themed POS material, which will replace last year’s sleigh design. “I still think there are a lot of retailers out there that haven’t really given Christms a go,” claims Nash.

Rohit and Vita Patel of Ottershaw Londis in Surrey followed Cadbury’s advice last year and saw sales rocket 16%. “The seasonal display unit made a big impact at Christmas,” claims Rohit.

Tony agrees that it’s worth making the effort with themed POS material. “We had a lot of Cadbury POS – we had the big sleigh,” he says. “It took about two hours to build, but it worked! You could see people stopping to look and picking things up.”

Ferrero’s gold POS material has also achieved strong results in-store. “We had a gold Ferrero stand next to the till, and the products sold really well,” says Tony.

Shopper marketing controller Sarah Forsbrey confirms that the company will be continuing with its “hot gold” activation following last year’s success.

Participate in the countdown to Christmas

For many shoppers, advent calendars mark the start of the festive season and have become an enjoyable ritual for both children and adults counting down the days to Christmas, claims Mars Chocolate UK.

New for 2016, Galaxy will be joining Maltesers and Mars as the newest addition to the firm’s advent calendar line-up (rrp £2.70).

Getting calendars out on time is critical. “Advent calendars have to be out from 1 November to sell through by 1 December,” says Susan Nash, trade communications manager at Mondelez International.

Iris Penney, owner of The Store, Badminton, Gloucestershire, has to stock more calendars than most. “I always have to make sure I have extra advent calendars as people always come in on 2 December distressed that they’ve forgotten to buy one,” she says. “We’re in a rural location and the customer base is affluent, so they don’t want £1 economy lines – they want high-end Lindt, Cadbury and Mars calendars.”

Another high-end option is the Thorntons range. “Shoppers are always on the look-out for something special to give at Christmas, leading to a 2.7% rise in the growth of premium advent calendars,” says Levi Boorer, customer development director at brand owner Ferrero.

Thorntons is expanding its offering to include Santa and Gruffalo Advent Calendars (rrp £3). Not forgetting the grown-ups, the new Continental Advent Calendar (rrp £8) will offer the firm’s recently updated Continental range behind each door, offering consumers a tasting journey in the lead up to Christmas.


Following sales exceeding £79m in the months leading up to Christmas last year, the firm will be back on TV screens as part of an £8.1m media investment, including standalone ads for Ferrero Rocher, Raffaello and Ferrero Collection.

Ferrero will promote the Raffaello brand with a £2.85m media investment, coupled with NPD. The Raffaello Micro Ballotin (rrp £1.23) will be available all-year-round, driving trial of the range, whilst the Raffaello Mini Tree 40g (£2.09) will offer an option for premium small gifting. A Ferrero Rocher Mini Tree will also be available at the same price point.

On air from October, the Raffaello creative is designed to encourage trial and connect with a younger audience through tongue-in-cheek humour. With 93% of consumers watching videos online, the campaign will feature a heavyweight digital activation, one million samples and in-store displays.

Ferrero Rocher will be on TV screens from 2 November for 11 weeks with its ‘Make Your Moments Golden’ creative platform. Out of home activity, social activation engaging over 750,000 Facebook fans, an interactive new website and a nationwide sampling campaign will run alongside the advert.

Ferrero Collection will also star in its own ad from November. The £675,000 investment will comprise print advertising, TV and PR.

Ferrero is also breathing new life into the recently acquired Thorntons brand with a £4.9m media investment this September. The multi-channel campaign will see a new TV creative on air from November 4 for six weeks. This will be the first time the brand has been on the small screen in seven years. “There’s a real opportunity here,” says Ferrero customer Development Director Levi Boorer. “In the past, Thorntons was on deep cut promotions and some consumers have said it’s old fashioned. We want to put it back in the hearts of chocolate lovers.”

Figures and shapes set to steal the show

Figures and shapes is the largest category after advent calendars at Christmas in terms of sales growth, notes Ferrero. The company’s Thorntons 200g and 60g models are undergoing a makeover this Christmas. The reindeer now has a red nose, while all models will boast new poses and packaging.

For Christmas 2016, Nestlé Confectionery has unveiled the Smarties Penguin in Penguin and Milkybar Polar Bear (rrp £2.55). Both products comprise a hollow chocolate animal with a chocolate baby within.

The firm is also launching Smarties Santa’s Workshop (rrp £4) which features six hollow milk chocolate figures.

Nestlé’s biggest innovation in 2016 is the Smarties and Milkybar 3D Activity Packs (rrp £4). Each box contains a chocolate figurine, mini Smarties or Milkybar packs and colouring pencils, as well as a penguin or polar bear picture which can be coloured in and scanned with a digital device, on which consumers will watch it come to life before their eyes.

Werther’s Original brand owner Storck UK is also spending big this Christmas. “This year we are investing over £8m in TV advertising with a strong burst in the lead up to the festive season, making us one of the top five TV ad investors in the confectionery category this year,” says sales director Andy Mutton. “It will ensure that consumers have our brands top of mind when shopping for their Christmas confectionery needs and we’ve also made sure that the range really delivers in terms of standout on shelf.”

Werther’s Original Golden Mix is back for 2016. Filled with toffees, eclairs, chocolate-covered fudge, creamy filling and the classic butter candies, this year’s pack has been refreshed with gold foil and a real festive bow to drive stand out on shelf.

The firm’s portfolio also includes Merci Finest Selection, comprising eight varieties of individually-wrapped slim bar-shaped milk and dark chocolate. The brand hit UK stores for the first time in 2015 and is available in a ‘token gift’ slimline 250g box - and a ‘special gift’ 400g box.

Storck’s Toffifee brand will be heavily promoted too. “We’re investing in an increased TV advertising campaign from September right through to the festive season to help drive demand. We expect significant uplift in rate of sale in excess of 32%, pushing more sales through retailers so they should be stocking up now to ensure the brand is available throughout this busy period,” says Mutton. The Toffifee Christmas 400g pack is aimed at sharing with family, while the 100g pack makes a good stocking filler, notes the firm.

After Dinner Mints continue to perform well

The after dinner mint category is worth £28.4m with growth at 1.6%, according to Storck UK. “Within this category, Bendicks has delivered the highest value growth of the top five performers, growing at 28.1% during the 2015 Christmas sales period,” says Storck sales director Andy Mutton. “Kantar data revealed that Bendicks has the most loyal shoppers within the after dinner mints category, meaning that shoppers will continue buying the product long after the festive period is over.”

According to Storck, Bendicks Mint Crisps delivered a very strong performance, growing in value by a massive 235% MAT during the 2015 festive season. “This year we are updating the packaging on our Bendicks Mint crisps, giving them a premium makeover which we are confident will impact the positive performance even further,” says Mutton.

The after dinner category plays a key role throughout the entire Christmas season, adds Nestlé. The firm says that after dinner sharing occasions are growing at 55%, driving the growth in total boxed chocolate consumption occasions which are up 15%.

After Eight is the number one after dinner mint with a 55% share of the segment, states Nestlé, reminding c-store retailers that the 300g packs are a must-stock.

The After Eight selection packs, Tin and Straws, will be returning for Christmas 2016. The latter delivered £1.8m value sales following its launch last year, claims the company.

Another family favourite back on TV for Christmas 2016 is Quality Street, which returned to screens in 2015 for the first time in eight years. This time Nestlé says that it will run the ad earlier in the season to encourage further sales, noting that 67% of shoppers who bought seasonal confectionery in the early season returned to buy again.

This year, Quality Street welcomes the addition of a new Honeycomb Crunch sweet. The brand will also benefit from further improvements in packaging design, with the reintroduction of the ‘Major and Miss’ to the logo as well as more emphasis on the ‘Since 1936’ message in order to reinforce quality and trust cues. The new design also leverages the colour gold for a more premium, giftworthy feel, which will also improve on-shelf stand out.

What’s more, for the first time the names of all the sweets will be highlighted on the outside of the packaging, ensuring consumers can see the wide variety of sweets inside.

With so much support from big brands over the festive period, retailers can look forward to another strong season. “Confectionery is at the heart of Christmas, worth £706m in 2015,” says Mondelez’s Nash. “Chocolate is more relevant than ever for the convenience channel with total chocolate in growth by 2% year-on-year in Q4 and seasonal novelties up by 3.7%.”

Iris expects this year’s Christmas confectionery sales to be just as fruitful as 2015. “We had to re-stock a few times last year,” she says. “People might be talking about an economic downturn, but they still want to treat the kids. Regardless of their financial situation, they want to have a good Christmas.”

Mars Chocolate UK’s top tips for retailers

Site disruptive displays in high footfall locations throughout the shopper’s journey in store, capturing the attention of impulse shoppers

Consumers love ‘event’ displays, so create in store theatre with a Christmas display. Christmas is a busy time in-store so ensure you use impactful POS units to drive those all-important sales and bring the festive season to life

Bestsellers need to be at eye level, where shopper attention is naturally focused

The festive season is also a time for nostalgia, so stocking bestsellers from brands which consumers know and love will help to further boost sales

Shoppers expect to find ideas at the front of the store, with all Christmas items sited together, making it easier for them to buy everything they need for the ideal Christmas.