Shopping Jolly! – Western Grocer

Holiday merchandising ideas for the season

By Carly Peters

A lot of shoppers are eager to get back into holiday traditions, but at the same time the pandemic has undeniably changed the way people shop, even during the happiest season of the year. Many predict that 2020 trends — such as early and extended holiday efforts, curb-side pickup/buy online pick up in store (BOPUS) models, and just simplified shopping in general — will continue into this year. Traditionally, the holiday season begins with Thanksgiving and extends to the end of December

In terms of demand, this holiday season, however, could be unique. Last year, PWC Canada’s annual Holiday Outlook report found that as a result of the pandemic, Canadians pulled back on their holiday spending averaging $1,104 down nearly 31 percent from $1, 2019.

That could well bounce back, putting a lot of strain on grocers as consumers once again get together to celebrate with family and friends after nearly two years of relative isolation. This makes it even more important for retailers to watch in-store stocking and off-site warehousing, delivery schedules, store maintenance plans, merchandise displays, shelf setups and shopping themes.

For those shopping in-store, visually impacting displays and easy pick up will be essential to meeting customers holiday shopping needs quickly and conveniently, making merchandising more important than ever.

If merchandising can be defined as the art of staging a store to encourage consumers to purchase more products, then effective merchandising over the busy holiday seasons (and Christmas is the most hectic of all) is critical to any grocer’s bottom line. Grocers can leverage their unique position to make their costumers’ holidays a magical time and, thus, solidify their relationship. Grocers with a good holiday strategy can capture the biggest slice of the holiday spending pie.

Many shoppers enter the holiday season undecided on what to buy or where to buy it, as half of all purchases are expected to be either completely or partially unplanned. Specifically, 30 percent of purchases are still being finalized and 20 percent are completely unplanned across in-store and online channels. Retailers have a chance to influence a large portion of the shopping budget by focusing on what matters most. Last year, sales of food items increased 6% the week before Thanksgiving, with retailers ringing up more than $1.8 billion in total sales while the week of Christmas came in at more than $2.1 billion.

On average, Canadian grocery categories generate about 1.92% of their sales each week throughout the year. During the Thanksgiving holiday season, however, consumers rush to stock up on an array of Thanksgiving staples. Retailers generate 15% of their pumpkin product sales this week, while sales of turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing each increase about 12%.

A holiday strategy should encompass all aspects of the operation of a grocery store. To best serve costumers during the holiday season, grocers must curate stock relevant to their costumers’ needs and create a retail floor where these can be best met. Breaking from routine, consumers are more rushed and adventurous than ever. A streamlined store caters to their urgency and invites exceptional (impulse) purchases. Correctly stocking the store is crucial; holiday merchandising holds the key.

Great merchandising is a blend of many different factors, the foremost being effective displays as well as products that lend themselves well to holiday promotions. Studies indicate that the first two weeks in December are when most shoppers are more attentive to in-store displays/recipes.

Julie Dickson Olmstead, managing director, public affairs & corporate social responsibility at Save-On-Foods says it all starts by understanding customers needs. “Our teams review seasonal trends and historical data to put together a strong plan to ensure that the items our customers need the most are available. From there, it’s all about the details! To ensure our customers can find what they need, we must have adequate stock of seasonal items that peak in demand during the holidays. We know that regular allocations can be tight, so key holiday items are given additional display space to ensure that customers are able to buy the items that they need to make their holiday season a success. We know that the holidays can be a busy time, so our goal is to offer customers a full, fresh, convenient shopping experience where they are able to find everything they need to celebrate with family and friends”.

Dickson Olmstead says they typically see an early lift in the baking categories.

“Throughout the season, we know that our fresh departments are incredibly important to our customers as they plan large traditional home cooked meals. We offer a full stock of fresh hams, roasts and turkeys with just the right produce pairings. Our bakery departments always do well with fresh baked artisan breads and festive desserts for every holiday event. As the days get busier, we know customers look for convenient options from our Save-On-Foods Kitchen, as well as party trays in both the deli and bakery to ease the stress of the season. We also see strong gains in floral and general merchandise as customers look for convenient gifts for their friends and loved ones”.

Having the right products, in the right place and at the right time, of course, is the challenge with determining assortments during this period.

Here are some products to consider for the holidays:

A little some extra

Stocking stuffers are always those little unexpected items that make people go, “You know I think they’d like that.” This season The Lump O’ Coal Corp. is releasing their SERIES II Stuffy Collection, featuring cute little critters, such as tigers, blue hippos, cows, and polar bears, each tucked inside a coal-looking container (a cute trick for the naughty and nice on shopper’s lists).

Positioning the festive products in key areas where consumers wait for checkouts has always been the best for impulse sales, such as self checkouts, explains The Lump O’ Coal Corp. Owner, Elke Waterhouse. However, she cautions that grouping all Christmas product into one area seems to overwhelm the average shopper. 

“Islands of Christmas goodies have so much information. Staple products can be grouped. If a retailer were to have several smaller setups, throughout their store, they could sell through more of their items,” she says, adding they offer retailers visual merchandisers that can be easily positioned in any part of the store.

Party on

Everyone is hoping for a more social festive season in 2021, and wanting to share these special events with family, extended family, and friends means getting back to entertaining, says Tony Morello, chief executive officer of Zoglo’s Incredible Food Corp, which recently launched Zoglo’s Black Box lineup featuring 12 skus of their plant-based food options including burgers, “chicken” cutlets, ground “beef,” veggie franks and more.

“This being said one of the most challenging and stressful concerns is trying to satisfy the ever growing dynamic of people’s dietary restrictions be it voluntary or for health reasons including the vastly growing plant-based food movement,” he says, pointing to the fact the category is growing at +34 per cent in Canada, mainly among consumers who aren’t going to give up eating meat but are looking to add plant-based meals in to their weekly meal planning.

The company is ensuring retailers can help costumers identify these new items with a full freezer door highlighted by POS and recipe ideas to help educate, enhance and deliver a compelling food shopping experience. Morello states the plant-based teriyaki meatballs is just one example of a great, eight minute appetizer that will appeal to everyone at the party.

Get carded

Social expressions, such as greeting cards, are an authentic part of consumers’ holiday traditions, and one that they’re looking to repeat every year, even post-pandemic.

One of the ways that grocery retailers can increase conversion and build the profitability of their basket is by setting a greeting card outpost in high traffic areas of the store to capitalize on impulse sales and engage with consumers who may still be limiting their time at retail with a focus still on essentials, explains Paul Werynski, vice-president of Carlton Cards.

It is important, he says, to get “the product in the path of the consumer, making it easy and convenient to shop”. According to their Occasion Pulse: Christmas 2020 study, 79 per cent of consumers believe greeting cards are a great way to show you care.

Top of Mind

More in-home entertaining, means more guests to feed. Not only does this possibility require additional stock to be on the shelf, but consumers may need friendly reminders on what else they must buy for their bigger bashes.

Steve Tschirhart, associate category business director, beverages, desserts and Infant for Kraft Heinz Canada suggests retailers leverage merchandising vehicles to bring in additional inventory during high-demand periods, and use them to remind consumers of seasonal products that might not be top-of-mind, but will drive that impulse or emotional purchase. He adds this holiday season Kraft will be utilizing multi-branded merchandisers. “The goal is to remind consumers, so out-of-aisle and cross-merchandising will drive that incremental purchase.”