Analyst Corner: Last (minute) Christmas

Before I channel my inner George Michael and burst into a mediocre (terrible!) rendition of the Christmas classic by Wham!, I thought I would have a ramble around Christmas grocery shopping and the true opportunities for retailers. Now, this may seem a little late in the day, but if, like me, planning isn’t your forte you won’t be considering the festive period until next week at the earliest.

For retailers, Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year, and also the busiest and most important. In fact, we asked retailers to rank different seasons and celebrations in order of their importance to driving sales growth in your business. Christmas was a clear winner, with Easter following behind.

No doubt you will have seen festive decorations and displays littered across stores, as retailers show their festive side and engage with shoppers in unique and brilliant ways. When it comes to being bold and standing out in a crowded marketplace, half of convenience store retailers believe that getting behind events and occasions more (e.g. Christmas) with themed displays, new products, promotions, dressing up, etc. will create a more enjoyable experience for their shoppers. Christmas is the ideal time for retailers to engage with their customers and thank them for their support - these strong relationships are the USP of the symbol and indie channel.

But what can be done at the eleventh hour? All opportunities have passed, and retailers should now look beyond the festive period into 2020, right? Wrong! Only 33% of shoppers do not make any last-minute purchases in the lead up to the Christmas period. Almost half (48%) make an occasional last-minute purchase, but 20% are not particularly planned at all and often make late purchases – convenience stores are the masters of the distress top-up mission!

Product availability will be important to the unplanned shopper on a distress mission purchasing last-minute items. Staff numbers will be key during this period, as they can aid product availability by restocking shelves, scanning shelves for reorders, manning the store whilst the owner visits the cash & carry etc.

However, convenience stores don’t need to think outside of the box too much. Supermarkets and discounters will attract the most shoppers who are on a main shopping mission, so the more unique items will be catered through those channels. It is the core convenience products that will drive shoppers into store. Crisps & snacks, confectionery, soft drinks and alcohol are on most shopping lists, not only from a consumption perspective, but also as a gift for their loved ones.

That last-minute gift on their way round to the family dinner, visiting friends on Boxing Day, hosting a party, run out of booze, the list of reasons why shoppers may need a lifesaver from their local grocery store is pretty long. It may be cliché, but those that put the work in, will have the most satisfied customers and the best chance of driving long-term loyalty and maximising their share of the Christmas pudding.

Merry Christmas and thanks for reading.