1. Easter is nine days earlier this year, so get cracking!
Easter is one of the biggest seasonal opportunities for independent convenience retailers and this year will be no exception. However, Easter 2024 is not without its challenges. With Easter Sunday falling on 31 March, the season is over a week earlier than last year, and more than a fortnight shorter than in 2022. There are also the rising pressures on household budgets to contend with, which may well impact spending.
The positive news for retailers is that these cost pressures may actually help rather than hinder.
Kathryne Hague, Hancocks head of marketing, says: “The cost-of-living crisis has a significant impact on seasonal purchasing and consumer habits. As many households are trying to watch pennies, they’re more likely to avoid going out to celebrate occasions and there is more at-home sharing.
“Shoppers are also more likely to turn to the convenience sector this year for Easter treats to find good deals. As confectionery is still seen as affordable, many people will choose to treat themselves and their loved ones with sweet treats and gifts during seasonal occasions.”
The wholesaler advises retailers stock Easter-themed pick n mix, chocolate eggs and kids novelty lines as these are the categories most in demand.
With 42% of Easter sales taking place in January and February, mostly driven by unplanned impulse purchases, (Nielsen) retailers still have time to grab their fair share.
Enya McAteer, Mulkerns Spar Jonesborough, Newry, says: “We had all our Easter impulse lines out at the start of December and they sell really well throughout the season. Our concern is whether shoppers will buy as much as they did last year.
“At Christmas, we noticed shoppers weren’t buying as much chocolate and we had some left over - which has never been the case before. However, we’ve ordered the same amount for Easter as we would normally and will continue to promote them.”
2. Brands make up over 70% of seasonal sales
When it comes to seasonal events, brands play a key role with a 71% share of seasonal lines in 2023, leaving own label with 29%. (Circana) Circana: Total market, value sales, 3we 8 April 2023
Natalie Lightfoot of Londis Solo Convenience, Glasgow, makes sure she is stocking leading Easter brands as soon as they become available. “We started stocking Creme Eggs, Mini Eggs and impulse lines in December and we’ve just introduced branded medium shell eggs. We won’t sell large eggs until much later. Impulse products sell best for us – even better than Christmas impulse,” she says.
Brands are continuing to invest in their seasonal ranges. Mars Wrigley is launching eight new Easter products this year. Florence Kayll, senior brand manager – Easter at Mars Wrigley, says: “2023 saw a large growth in shopper consideration towards Mars Wrigley Easter products, with more than 600,000 shoppers exclusively buying Mars Wrigley brands during the spring period.”
This year sees the return of Maltesers Bunny and Galaxy Creamy Truffle Mini Eggs, with the former helping Mars to drive growth of 4.7% in the single seasonal impulse market, which declined by -5.1% in 2023 (Nielsen).
Mondelez, meanwhile, reports that its Cadbury White Creme Egg contributed to 25% of all filled single sales, while Mini Eggs grew by 19% (Nielsen).
Although branded products make up the bulk of sales, there’s still a place for value and own-label lines.
Kenton Burchell, Bestway group trading director, says: “Consumers may shift their preferences towards more budget-friendly options or essential items rather than luxury or non-essential products. This could impact the demand for certain types of Easter-related goods.
“Shoppers will be conscious of costs and looking for value and so retailers should stock a good range of own-label brand products.”
3. Giant eggs grew +59% in 2023
Giant eggs are the fastest-growing Easter egg partition across the total market (+59% YOY, Nielsen). In fact, they proved so popular that Mars Wrigley saw a 6% increase in the volume of packs purchased per shopping trip in 2023 (Nielsen).
In comparison, the traditional egg confectionery category is worth £246m and grew by 1.7% in 2023 (Nielsen).
Shell eggs are an egg-stremely valuable opportunity for retailers to strengthen their seasonal sales, notes Mondelēz International, which owns nine out of the top 10 shell eggs in the total market (Nielsen).
Charlotte Parkes, senior brand manager for Cadbury Easter, says: “The Easter season has always been a staple in the retail calendar, but the holiday is blooming more than ever for shoppers, with 84% of shoppers celebrating the occasion in 2023 [Kantar]. As the end of the season approaches, we know that gifting grows in importance, and our shell-egg range will create excitement and magic for consumers”.
The firm advises retailers to gear up for a ‘gifting finish’ for the last three weeks before Easter Sunday and advises stocking a range of shell eggs from its “Surprise & Delight”, “Traditional Gift” and “Special Gesture” categories.
“We’re not expecting value to play a part in Easter, but Easter products tend to replace the sales of standard chocolate, so we need to be aware of that and adapt,” says Natalie. “We do expect panic buying to play a higher role this year and this is where larger eggs offer an opportunity.
“There is a strong demand for smaller eggs because shoppers buy them as gifts throughout the season, but larger eggs help drive profits.”
4. Egg-citing innovations are opening up new opportunities
Seasonal chocolate blocks are a surefire way to extend Easter sales.
Nestlé’s Milkybar Mini Eggs bar added £1.2m to convenience tills last year (Circana), and is back for 2024.
Meanwhile, Mondelez has revealed a Creme Egg Bar this season and, following on from the success of its Cadbury Mini Egg bar, which debuted in 2020, a 360g gifting format joins the portfolio this year, available nationwide for the first time.
“Tablets are the heartland for Cadbury and the addition to the portfolio is sure to be a hit in-store – ideal for snacking, sharing and gifting,” says Susan Nash, trade communications manager for Mondelez. The company has also once again launched its ‘find the winning egg’ campaign, giving retailers and shoppers the chance to win cash prizes and vouchers.
Cadbury Mini Eggs are also available in a fresh bakery format this year, thanks to European bakery products manufacturer Baker & Baker, which has launched Cadbury Mini Eggs Chocolate Cookie. The limited-edition cookie is baked fresh in-store and combines Cadbury’s chocolate cookie dough, packed with micro Mini Eggs.
“Seasonality is a becoming more prominent within fresh bakery and Easter is now a key time for retailers thanks to an expanded sales period and longer lead times into the Easter break,” says Michael Bancroft, licensing director at Baker & Baker.
Kervan Gida is also livening up Easter options with its candy coated chocolate mini eggs featuring a gummy centre. Dexters Dynaegg comes in an 80g bag with an RRP of £1. Matthew Smith, senior national account manager says: “Stocking up early will ensure an extended selling period for this treat, offering multiple purchase occasions. The £1 price point also presents a strong opportunity to drive profit.”
5. Home baking at Easter grew by 11% last year
The home baking category was worth £15m over Easter 2023, growing +11% vs Easter 2022. Seasonal lines grew +216% as retailers got behind the seasonal event even more than the previous year (Circana).
Jen Johnson, Dr Oetker Baking head of marketing – cake, says this is likely to grow even further in 2024. “Home baking is often seen as a less expensive activity to do with children, especially during the school holidays like Easter. Although we often see shoppers more willing to trade up at seasonal events, promotions on seasonal and core lines in baking will be key to further entice shoppers to purchase.”
Within the home baking sector, the items that drove the most growth for Easter 2023 were chocolate, baking cases, inclusions, placements, and sprinkles (IRI).
Retailers should consider promoting recipe and activity ideas on their social media pages to get customers excited about Easter. By stocking a range of bestselling brands and luxury treats, retailers can ensure they drive their sales and profits this Easter.