With seasonal gifts and treats coming out the minute the pumpkins disappear, retailers have a large window of opportunity to indulge in

Confectionery is a key part of the festive season and was worth a staggering £824m overall during Christmas 2016 (IRI), up £6m on the previous Christmas (Nielsen Scantrack).

And convenience retailers are definitely reaping the rewards of this overall trend. Jon Cowen, store manager of Nisa Local, in Victoria Road, Richmond, says he has witnessed a year-on-year increases in festive sales since the store opened four years ago.

“This is a very important time for us. It’s the biggest trading time of the year and we get an increase in sales within the confectionery category pretty much throughout the whole quarter.

“Anything impulse gets an increased rate of sale. Generally Cadbury and Mars are the two big brands for us, offering a really wide range of Christmas treats.”

Levi Boorer, customer development director at Ferrero, believes this should be another bumper sales year for confectionery.

“2016 was one of the biggest Christmases ever. Falling on a Sunday there was a double peak in sales across the industry across Friday and Saturday and we foresee a similar trend this year with the big day on a Monday,” he says.

But convenience store retailers have a big task on their hands when it comes to beating the discounters and online retailers in order to get those all-important Christmas shoppers. 

Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive of IGD, said: “The launch of Amazon Fresh and of Aldi Online [in 2016] extends shoppers’ choice and people will also benefit from more one-hour delivery slots, shorter lead times and the growing availability of click and collect from established players.”

Chaz Chahal, owner of two Costcutter stores and one Simply Fresh store in the Worcestershire area, says confectionery is unquestionably important at Christmas but that it’s the timing that must be right. He says people want to stock up on these products from the minute Halloween is over.

“You have the September lull period after the summer but Halloween is getting bigger and bigger and more Americanised so people are putting a lot more thought and effort into their plans for that day. But as soon as it’s over we start selling festive stock.

“I’ve noticed people wanting to start buying earlier each year. Even those who aren’t looking to buy early will subconsciously be shopping when they see the products available in my store and clocking that they can come back for them. I want them to know they can come back to get everything they need once they’ve started their preparations.”

Chaz is right; according to IGD, 53% of shoppers had already bought some food and grocery items for Christmas by mid-November in 2015. Mondelez International’s senior brand manager Declan Duggan advises retailers to stock up from October for a fast start to this season.

“This is the biggest opportunity in the convenience channel due to its impulsivity,” he explains. “These products help to signpost the Christmas season and provide a great opportunity to start seasonal sales off early by driving excitement.”

Paul Stone, who owns seven stores in Greater Manchester, says his shoppers start to show their vulnerability to a sweet treat from as early as September.

“Our first drop of tubs comes at the end of August and these start selling pretty well from September. This is the time of year when X-Factor and Strictly Come Dancing start to return to TV and people start staying in more on Saturday nights.

“We only sell these for £5 each so there’s not a large margin on them, but we sell a lot.”

For any retailer unsure when their shoppers are likely to start buying Christmas confectionery, there’s always in-store activity to boost interest and awareness.

Andrew Ovens, marketing manager at Big Bear Confectionery, says one great way to encourage sales of confectionery is by offering samples in store. “When focusing on boosting sales for a premium boxed product, think about using a box for samples. If customers can try the product, they might be more likely to buy it. Our research has shown that Just Brazils stand up to the test and we have found trial leads to purchase with this product.”

Julie Jones, of Morton PO & Stores in Lincolnshire, says this will be the first year when the store concentrates more on marketing their children’s chocolates. They plan to put their store ‘on the map’ as the place to go for children’s chocolate at Christmas with a big event in store in the first week of December.

“We will stock up on all the smaller chocolates that children can buy with their pocket money such as the Cadbury Magic Elves and snow men. These range from 35p to 80p. We’ll host the event on 10 December so it’s late enough in the year for people to be in the Christmas spirit but early enough so people shouldn’t be too busy to attend.”

Julie says she always starts her ordering with Cadbury products.

“Cadbury does a really good range of Christmas stock. Nestlé are the next and then Kinder bars and eggs are also very popular.”

Barbara Gregory, of McColl’s Sandbach, Cheshire, finds that selection boxes are very popular sellers. She makes these an extra attractive purchase by offering to wrap them up.

“In order to increase sales it’s all about thinking outside the box. There’s lots of people who hate wrapping and I love it so I will wrap up the items for them, and that definitely encourages them to buy more while they’re here,” she says. “If I don’t have time to wrap it straight away then I’ll tell them to come back in an hour and it will all be done.”

Showmanship like this is a great way to boost sales but the popularity of different products will naturally vary greatly depending on shopper demographics. Paul has noticed a decline in the popularity of boxed chocolates. “I would say that traditional selection boxes are in decline as we seem to have a lot of those left after Christmas every year. Thankfully we have a fairly high population of Chinese people in this area and so a lot of Chinese New Year celebrations. This gives us that second opportunity to sell through the left over stock.”

Chaz agrees that some of the standard selection boxes such as Roses and Heroes aren’t great sellers in his stores, as these are often sold much cheaper in supermarkets.

Instead he finds that the more premium products, which offer the shopper a little extra for their money, are better sellers.

“I think people are always happy to pay that bit more for a more premium product. I find that tins of biscuits and chocolates are more popular as a gifting option than boxes.”

Paul says that it’s the more quirky products which get the most interest in his store.

“The stuff I found sold well last year were the Bassetts Jelly Baby characters gift tins. They’ve been popular for the last couple of Christmases so I don’t know if they might be a bit old news this year. People like to buy anything that’s a bit different as an interesting gift.”

This year Maynards Bassetts Juicy Chews will be sold in a festive penguin jar (rrp £5.19 per 495g, four packs per case) and the brand’s Jelly Snowmen – a sharing bag of snowman shaped jellies - should get sweet-toothed shoppers salivating (rrp £1.32 per 165g, 12 packs per case).

Milk Tray Man makes his move

Cadbury Milk Tray has been updated for 2017 in a space-saving format. The 180g sku is in a narrower pack with a double layer to take up fewer facings on shelf - rrp £4.25.

The Milk Tray Man will return to TV this Christmas with a £10m spend.

Other products available from the confectionery giant are Cadbury Snow Bites available in a self-eat format for Christmas 2017 (rrp 60p per 43g, 24 packs per case). These will sit alongside the Snow Bites Cracker, which offers a fun novelty gift with four Snow Bites bags inside (rrp £2.99 per 126g, 9 packs per case).

The Cadbury Heroes Cracker is another novelty gifting pack including popular Heroes chocolates (rrp £2.99 per 123g, 9 packs per case).

Cadbury Fudge Minis will be joining Dairy Milk Freddo Faces and Dairy Milk Buttons in the tube format, also offering a free child entry to Cadbury World in every pack (worth £12.30, rrp £1.42 per 72g, 12 per case).

Ranging and merchandising advice can be found online: www.deliciousdisplay.co.uk.


Advent calendars

Advent calendars are a great way of building buzz and excitement in the build up to Christmas.

With the premium advent segment experiencing strong growth of +41% (Nielsen, Novelties, 17 weeks to 24.12.16), there has been increased choice in chocolate and non-chocolate advents for both adults and children.

Richard Dance, who owns six Co-op Welcome stores around Southampton, says he’s noticed grown ups becoming more interested in advent calendars which could go some way to explaining the growth in the larger, more premium options.

“We’ve noticed that advent calendars are getting more sophisticated and bigger,” says Richard.

“Rather than just having the simple little characters and Christmas-themed chocolate shapes, you are getting calendars which have a whole truffle behind each door.

“No-one seems to want to grow out of advent calendars so we’ve got a bigger range this year and we’ve got more grown up options such as a Lindor £5 calendar.”

Chaz points out that there is an element of risk when it comes to stocking advent calendars.

“You get two types of shoppers; those who buy them well in advance and those who wait until 1 December so they can buy them cheap. We don’t want to be selling them cheap so we don’t stock too many of these, even if it means we’ve run out a few days before 1 December. I would rather that than be selling lots of them off cheap.”

Mondelez suggests retailers should give their shoppers plenty of choice of self-eat treats and stocking fillers with products under £1.

Tubes are a must-have stocking filler and are a huge part of the Christmas confectionery category making up 15% of total Christmas gifting sales last year (Nielsen total coverage value sales w/e 24.12.16). Mars is offering a new M&M’s treat tube this year to join the Galaxy Minstrels and Maltesers treat tubes (rrp £1.70).

Swizzels sales director Mark Walker says the Swizzels Sweet Treats gift tube is the ideal stocking filler. The tube is filled with Swizzels’ most iconic brands such as Love Hearts, Drumstick Lollies and Refreshers Bars.

Walker adds: “Additionally, for fans of individual brands such as Love Hearts, Refreshers, Parma Violets and Drumstick Lollies, there are gift tubes dedicated to each sweet treat brand.”

Ferrero kits out shelves for kids and grown ups

Thorntons will continue to ‘Pass the Love On’ this Christmas with a £3m support plan across TV, VOD, social, press and in-store activations.

Featuring a brand new creative, the ad will showcase Thorntons’ ‘lovingly crafted’ range, which it says is perfect for showing appreciation to loved ones during the festive period.

As shoppers look for new and seasonally-relevant products from brands they know and trust, Thorntons will also introduce two new incremental boxed products which include Thorntons Seasonal Selection, a small Christmas themed box of popular flavours including limited edition flavours, and Thorntons Christmas Selection, which includes Winter Fudge, Vanilla Snowflake and a festive Christmas Tree, aimed at the gifting occasion.

Brand owner Ferrero says the Thorntons Continental range experienced exceptional sales at Christmas 2016, leading to triple digit growth (+199% ) and becoming the fastest-growing boxed chocolate brand. Building on this success, Thorntons Continental will launch a premium Dark variant this Christmas.

Ferrero’s kids’ chocolate brand Kinder is launching a Kinder Chocolate Santa Letter (rrp £3.50). Consisting of two 100g (8 x 12.5g) Kinder Chocolate bars, an envelope, paper and stickers so children can write letters to Santa. Each sent letter will be replied to by the Royal Mail.

Kinder Joy will reveal collectable winter eggs. Available in three colours and four different designs, each egg will contain toys which can be hung on the Christmas tree.


In Manchester, Paul says he always ensures to have a gold Ferrero display in his store in the run up to Christmas.

“Ferrero chocolates do very well at Christmas. They always put a nice gold stamp on your store and the big golden trays offer a more premium gift box.”

Richard says the key to keeping the sales coming throughout the festive season is to keep changing the promotions and displays.

“If you have deep cut promotions on gift-able items in the lead up to Christmas people will pick them up and probably put them on top of their wardrobe just because it’s a bargain,” he observes.

Bep Dhaliwal, trade communications manager for Mars Chocolate UK, points out that promotions on boxed chocolates earlier in the season can help kick-start the season to drive a fast start, but it is also important to capitalise on sales opportunities in the final week. Promotions should be held at this point to drive value sales, she suggests.

Tease out impulse sales

Maltesers Merryteaser calendar was the third best-selling calendar (rrp £2.79) last year (Nielsen chocolate total coverage, self-eat and small sharing mini/business segment).
Meanwhile, the Maltesers Merryteaser Reindeer (rrp 65p) and Maltesers Merryteaser Mini-Reindeer sharing bags (rrp £1.29) can be an impulsive purchase or a top-up gift, Mars Chocolate UK recommends.

New for this year, it has given the Maltesers Teasers its own box, making it more attractive as a gifting product (rrp £4.99).

Bep Dhaliwal, Mars trade communications manager, says: “Boxed value sales grew by £2.6m last Christmas making up over three-quarters of total Christmas confectionery sales in the final week leading up to Christmas Day, and Celebrations led the way as the number-one selling tub and pouch brand (Nielsen total market coverage w/e 24/12/16).

“Three treats are bought every second during Christmas in the UK, but in an impulsive and expandable category, there is always room for treating chocolate to grow.”

Alongside the Celebrations tub and pouch, the range also includes the Gift Box which is perfect as a gift for an individual or to share amongst friends or family, Mars says. It adds that Celebrations is the best-selling carton with sales 22% ahead of its nearest competitor. These are available for £4.99 and £3.31 respectively.

Additionally, Mars has launched a new Snickers selection box to provide a gift designed for men.


The final week leading up to Christmas is worth £127m and the last two weeks represent almost a third of total season sales, so retailers should ensure they are fully stocked with a range of chocolate products right up to Christmas Day, despite the temptation to run stocks down.

Confectionery at checkout contributes up to 11% of incremental sales (Shopper Retail & Ipsos Mars Research 2014) at Christmas so retailers retailers have good reason to prioritise this location during the festive season.

Jo Hellier, store manager at Gwilliams of Edington, Bridgwater, is taking Christmas merchandising to the next level this year and turning upstairs into a Christmas grotto. She says this will allow them to keep all their Christmas stock in one area and create great theatre.

“We are looking at getting a director to come in and be Santa in the lead up to Christmas. We’ll have this all set up from mid to late November. The grotto will include all the chocolate and sweets, as well as alcohol and gift ideas.”

Dean Holborn, from Holborn’s in Surrey, adds: “The Cadbury Christmas display unit was a huge success and we have never sold so many advent calendars. We have always had a display but this one went up earlier than normal and generated sales for Bonfire Night and Halloween as well. We sold a tremendous amount of chocolate.”

In short, retailers should stock confectionery lines to serve the various gifting and sharing occasions over the whole festive period. Start with tubs and small treats in September or October and expect novelty products to fly from November. And remember to stock plenty of high-quality and quirky products which will attract bigger spends.

Sales sizzle with Swizzels

For the first time, Swizzels is launching a Christmas advent calendar filled with a selection of its most-loved sweets. The unique advent calendar incorporates a Santa’s workshop theme, with 24 doors concealing ‘mouth-watering’ treats, the company says.
Behind each door consumers will find an individually-wrapped sweet from Swizzels including Drumstick Chews, Love Hearts, Refreshers and Parma Violets, as well as the number one selling product, Drumstick Squashies.

Sales director Mark Walker says: “The Drumstick Squashies Carton returns for Christmas 2017 after it proved hugely popular with consumers when introduced last year. Squashies continues to be Swizzels’ strongest performing line, and the fastest-growing sugar confectionery line in the UK marketplace. The latest figures show a pack is now being sold every two seconds, as Squashies has recently become the UK’s fourth most popular sugar confectionery brand (IRI Total MarketPlace Value Data: 52 weeks to 18.06.17).

“The eye catching 140g gift carton is filled with the classic Raspberry & Milk flavour Squashies. The number one best-selling product also comes in a larger 350g gift carton, and as part of a fun selection box alongside Drumstick Bon Bons and Drumstick Lollies.”

Swizzels Sweet Extravaganza tube is back this year with a new pack design. The extra long 520mm tube is packed full of Swizzels’ classic sweets including Love Hearts, Drumstick Lollies, Refreshers and Double Lollies.

Swizzels is the UK’s fastest-growing sugar confectionery manufacturer (IRI Total MarketPlace 52 w/e 18.06.17) and continues to perform well in the market, with year-on-year growth of 16%.