’Tis the Season Already

Consumers are looking to start holiday shopping sooner, early merchandising and promotions can help

By Carly Peters

Long before the first snowflake flies, grocery retailers are already thinking about the holidays. This year, with supply chain issues still plaguing the industry and the rise in food costs, the need for even earlier Thanksgiving and Christmas planning and promotions is paramount as consumers rush to ensure they get the products they want, at the price they want.

According to Salesforce’s June 2002 report, over the past two years, people started shopping before Black Friday. This year, people will again be looking to stock up on discounts and beat price hikes; 42 per cent more shoppers worldwide said they plan to start buying holidays items earlier to get better deals.

Searching for the best deal could also have an adverse effect on consumer loyalty. In fact, according to the same Salesforce research, half of all shoppers will switch brands this holiday due to pricing. This means that 2.5 billion shoppers worldwide could ditch their brand for a lower-priced competitor. This could be troublesome for many grocery categories which are more susceptible to waning loyalty due to price sensitivity.

According to PwC Canada’s Canadian Consumer Insights June 2022 pulse survey, consumers say when asked how they’re responding to the unavailability of their preferred products and other similar challenges such as pricing, nearly three-quarters (73%) of consumers say they shop at multiple different retailers at least occasionally to meet their needs. The survey states while some customers may be content to wait out these challenges, brand loyalty can be easily eroded as consumers are forced to visit multiple retailers.

In-store visuals will play a critical role in showing customers you have a solution to their holiday needs, whether it’s the brand they want (or the suggested alternative) or perfect price point. Here are a few suggestions from both retailers and producers on ways to make that happen:

Help make memories

When customers walk into the Italian Centre ahead of the holidays, they are greeted by a mountain of one of the most cherished Italian holiday bakery items – panettone. From limoncello to hazelnut, and even gluten free options, the beautifully wrapped sweet breads bring the holiday traditions shoppers cherish.

“There is a high sense of sentiment during the holiday season; your grandma would always make ‘blank’ so you want to re-create the nostalgia of family tradition of Christmas past. We try to bring in traditional Christmas products from around the world,” explains Cassondra Sherbert, store manager for the Calgary location, adding along with panettone the store creates festive displays with stollen, shortbread cookies, and torrone. “We carve out sections in various locations of the store dedicated to our seasonal items. We have featured tables just for Christmas décor.”

Sherbert adds with Christmas being such a impulse season, they utilize cross-promotional displays where customers are often waiting, like the deli, cash register, and even the in-store cafe. This is where the store also capitalizes on showcasing gift baskets and party trays of holiday items-both sweet and savoury-that help consumers quickly grab items for a host gift or to have at their own holidays party.

Budget-friendly bakes

Previous seasonal get togethers were impacted by the pandemic, and while many people are feeling more comfortable with in-person gatherings, it’s budget that might be holding them back from big holiday dinners.

One grocery staple that’s been able to stay relevantly stable is pasta. Angelo Boras, vice-president of sales for Italpasta, states that pasta bakes are not only an easy and no-fuss way to serve a crowd but can make for exceptional merchandising displays that pull in all parts of the store.

“To create interest and underline the ease and economy of baked pasta dishes as entertaining solutions, retailers should consider a rotating holiday recipe,” Boras states, adding the brand can support retailers with authentic recipes, like Lasagna Puttanesca, and elevated options to impress guests, such as Spinach Ricotta Manicotti bites. “Then feature all of the ingredients needed either off-shelf display or a flyer ad.”

Given the uncertainty of food prices, consumers may be thinking holiday much earlier than previous years, adds Boras. “To capture this, retailers should consider advertising holiday earlier than usual, along with considering digital ads on e-commerce sites that speak to proposed holiday bundles helps to generate some holiday planning.”

Let them eat cake… or other products

The holidays are big at Bosa Foods’ two retail locations in Vancouver. The Italian importer goes all out with holiday decor to showcase their extensive range of speciality seasonal items, which this year will include the addition of at the Spanish Turron brand, Dona Jimen, Cudie Catanies confectionary products, new Italian Ore Liete chocolates, and new Le Saveur Onion and Shallot confits, perfect for consumer’s holiday cheese boards.

“We feel that creating specialty holiday displays are absolutely essential. Adding products into everyday items can complement sales, but dedicated displays will certainly optimize exposure and translate in valuable sales,” explains Bruno Benedet Jr., president and CEO, adding it also simply makes it easy for consumers to peruse the selection of offerings. “We have found that generous displays in strategic areas, such as the store entrance or around POS stations, have a significant impact and nicely convert to impulse sales.”

But nothing generates new sales like letting consumers try before they buy. “Demos give retailers the opportunity to educate the consumer of the products. Let them taste the product, offer recipe cards for uses of products and dishes,” he explains, pointing to an example of a recipe they developed to use Italian Pandoro as a breakfast dish to do a holiday version of a French Toast. “This singular recipe created a new demographic of consumer that would have normal passed on this traditional Italian cake.”

Health nut

Nuts are a holiday favourite that people can feel good about giving and getting. In fact, retail nut sales over the Q4 holidays can increase 15 to 20 per cent, or higher says Chuck Corrigan, brand manager for C.B. Powell, distributor of Blue Diamond almonds

Blue Diamond Almonds can be incorporated into a healthy holiday merchandising display, suggests Corrigan, adding the brand’s mix of red and green single-serving bags make it easy to create festive look without any additional decor, while a stack of party packs are great for shoppers to grab as a host gift or as their snack contribution to party supplies.

When they’re not in a standalone display, nuts serve as the perfect addition to holiday baking set-ups or seasonal salad toppers. Leverage holiday displays that show AND tell. Create signage that offers up ingredient pairings and suggestions on how each can be used to make/bake something different this season.

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