Festive special: Retailers aim to light up seasonal drinks sales

It’s the time of year when Halloween paraphernalia masks the fact that retailers are already in full Christmas mode, yet we know that the pumpkins on shelf will soon magically transform into festive delights.

This year, Christmas Day falls on a Monday, so many supermarkets expect Saturday, December 23, to be the busiest shopping day.

A spokesperson for Diageo says: “With December 22, 23 and 24 occurring over a weekend, retailers should grasp the potential additional sales on offer by ensuring they are adequately stocked and that they are driving footfall through activation and promotion in their stores to benefit.”

Simon Marsden, Tesco’s category selling manager for beers, wines and spirits, says: “There is no doubt that Christmas is a critical time of year and that the BWS category is a footfall driver.”

Marsden adds: “This year it is the perfect storm with Christmas being on a Monday, which will affect a full week of trading, so we have to make sure we properly tap into that moment. “We will be more focused on dialling up party time events in general for the year ahead.”

Meanwhile, those in the convenience sector have identified the perfect opportunity to cash in on quirks of the calendar.

Simon Cairns, BWS manager at The Co-op, says: “December 24 will be an enormous day for us because Christmas Eve is not really a normal Sunday when you still might want to do a big shopping trip.

“It will be a day when people want to relax but may have forgotten to buy various items, so it plays to the strengths of the convenience channel.

“New Year is also great for us as it isn’t as planned as Christmas and people tend to be more spontaneous – and that is a real opportunity for us as a c-store retailer as well. “The way we are preparing for the festive season this year shows a real confidence that the channel as a whole will capture more people.

“In the past we have focused on stocking items such as batteries and sticky tape as those are the things people forget, but this year it is more about lovely foods, salmon, cheeses, chutneys and that really does show the shift in terms of what is happening in convenience.

“The BWS line-up is designed to match all of that. I believe we are now a destination for BWS and we are winning awards when we go up against our grocery retailer rivals.”

Majestic Wine has a range of festive specials coming into stores. The chain says it has high hopes for both sherry and Madeira sales, as both have been particularly strong this year.

Events manager Jack Merrylees says: “Sales are really healthy at the moment and they are always good at Christmas anyway, so we expect these to sell well.

“In fizz we have some really exciting high-level exclusives coming in.”

Borough Wines & Beers has a number of gift options for Christmas, including a new 15-bottle case called The Fifteen, to celebrate its 15th birthday, curated by owner Muriel Chatel. She has picked wines from old and new producers, from her early days on Borough Market to more recent additions. The case costs £250.

The retailer also has its Twelve Wines of Christmas case, a “fail-safe box of festive drinking, catering for every gathering, fest and drop-in guest”, and it has beer selection boxes, gourmet gifts and hampers including The Negroni Lover, The Bloody Mary Box and The Gin Afficianado.

Oddbins will have some of its focus this year on fine wine as the retailer says sales in this area have been in growth over the past 18 months. It has gradually increased the list of fine wines from 35 to close to 100 in its stores.

Head wine buyer Ana Sapungiu MW says: “It is now quite a strong range, but we are a bit bolder in what we call fine wine in terms of the places we cover, so there are now some from Portugal and Australia too.”

Oddbins, and many other drinks retailers, are pinning a lot of their hopes on sparkling wines and Champagne, so there looks to be plenty of focus on these this year.


Wine Rack has added more Proseccos to its range to create a better ladder of price points, while its overall sparkling line-up has also been increased. Newcomers include rosé and NV fizzes from Tasmanian producer Jansz, an English sparkler from Coates & Seely in Hampshire (£39.99, down to £29.99 on promotion), McGuigan Sparkling Shiraz from Australia, and Chandon sparkling from Argentina. Gift options include a Prosecco gift tube at £14.99 and the Follador Torre de Credazzo Magnum gift box at £34.99.

Other retailers are looking to modern drinks trend to boost their portfolios. Tesco plans to introduce two pre-mixed cocktails under its Tesco Finest label in time for Christmas. Negroni and Espresso Martini (both £15) are in 70cl bottles. The retailer also has a range of gift packs and some new pre-mixed cans of lower-alcohol gin and tonic at 0.3% abv. The drink comes in original and lower-calorie options.

Technical and development manager Danielle Jack says: “These use 14 botanicals which are distilled in water and put through a copper pot still in exactly the same method as with gin. “So there would be a total absence of alcohol except that you can’t extract flavours from juniper through water, so it has to be extracted through alcohol, which is why this product can’t be labelled as totally alcohol-free.

“It is then mixed with tonic as usual and the result is a very balanced soft drink.”

Lidl is also adding new drinks to its festive portfolio including Scottish Raspberry and Rhubarb & Ginger gin liqueurs in its Hortus range. Both are 20% abv in 50cl bottles and will be priced at £11.99 each. Oriental Spiced and Sloe variants of Hortus gin will be returning to the range for the festive season, each priced at £15.99, and the retailer also has a selection of new liqueurs: Deluxe Crème de Cassis de Dijon, Deluxe Triple Sec and Deluxe Cherry Brandy, each priced at £7.99.

Its full Christmas range will be in stores from November 23, and features three Canadian ice wines and a sparkling Tokaji. The latter was first introduced last year and proved to be a success.


Magnums and bigger formats will be among the main statement pieces in stores this year.

Andrew Shaw, Conviviality’s wine buying director, says magnums worked well in Wine Rack stores last year and there will be “quite a lot” this year.

 “Our promotions are more likely to be magnum-focused than half-priced deals, and consumers can expect to see around 15 to 20 magnum options in stores this Christmas,” he says.

One newcomer in the bigger format is the Bottega Prosecco jeroboam, packaged in a striking gold bottle and priced at £89.99.

“Bottega has been incredibly successful for us and it is a brilliant product. This is superbly packaged and it creates its own market demand. The Prosecco customer base is also one that wants to impress and this is great for gifts.”

Lidl is also expecting good sales of magnums and has Prosecco in the format for the first time, priced at £12.99, alongside a magnum of Champagne at £29.99. At the more premium end, Jeroboams is increasing its range of bigger-format wines with 30% more in its range.

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