Christmas – but not as we’ve known it
There has been significant discussion regarding the impact of the lockdown on Christmas celebrations which means consumers are considering their holiday plans more carefully. There is an obvious impact on foodservice in the run up to Christmas but what about at home consumption during this period?
The four UK Governments have agreed to ease restrictions over Christmas with three households able to form a bubble for four days from 23rd December.
For consumers, that’s likely to mean Christmas will start early. Gatherings are likely to be smaller, but they may last longer. We might see smaller parties, and the perfect opportunity to exclude that annoying uncle from the celebrations! But with the relaxations stopping short of New Year, that’s likely to have a big impact on usual celebrations.
We’ve seen evidence that consumers are getting prepared for Christmas early. With the added nervousness of Brexit, and financial worries, many are avoiding last minute panic buying. We’re also likely to see a continued shift to online buying as consumers seek to avoid crowded Christmas shops.
Changed consumer habits have an impact on categories in different ways. Typically, it has been alcohol, bakery, confectionery, biscuits, crisps and savoury snacks that have benefited from an uplift in Christmas sales as consumers seek to indulge.
Alcohol is likely to be the ‘big-win’ category in retail. In line with the months since the lockdown restrictions were implemented and hospitality is still being so curtailed. We’re likely to see more consumers trying something new, trading up.
It could also be a make-or-break period for key categories. Cake sales have suffered during the lockdown with consumers home baking more. Christmas is normally a lucrative period for the cake category and one the producers will want to get right after a disappointing year.
Whilst there might be an uplift in the week leading up to Christmas several consumers may have the future in mind which could ultimately lead to moderate consumption. The requirement for more planning and subsequent lockdown restrictions could lead to more considered purchasing.
This isn’t a ‘normal’ Christmas and New Year, so for companies, it’s a time to think beyond normal too. With only a few weeks until Christmas, the path is set for most. But there is still time to maximise your communications, ensuring they are absolutely relevant to your target consumers. It’s a time when new consumers might be buying in to your category and product, so get to know them.
It’s also a brilliant time to see what other food and drink companies have been up to. Get in store and keep your eyes open. Don’t just look at your own category and competitors, but look left and right. If you don’t see something and think ‘I wish we’d thought of that’ or ‘we could do something like that’ you’re not looking hard enough.