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We may still be in a cost-of-living crisis, but as Christmas proved, in tough times people continue to spend on food and drink. It seems most of us put more importance on eating together than on lavish gifts and frivolous spending. Eating together, as a family, is important to us, and Easter looks set to mirror Christmas in this way.
It’s something Samantha Riddington, food hall manager at Flourish, has certainly noticed, and she knows that shining a light on this can be beneficial to her business, and for customers.
“We’re definitely seeing people spending on fine food still, despite a rise in energy costs and other economic stressors. As this is a time when people come together, we always love to put a focus on fresh produce used for Easter Sunday family roasts. We like to put emphasis on colourful locally grown veg and the amazing quality of our locally farmed meat, which always comes from free-range farms with high welfare standards.”
Edward Berry, owner of The Flying Fork, takes a pragmatic view of volume of sales versus prices, but sees reasons to be optimistic going forward.
“It’s not a new observation that when times are tough, its often the “affordable” treats that do well. In terms of food, that translates to less eating out and possibly enjoying something special at home.
“It’s hard to get a true picture of trends, as whilst many retailers reported bumper sales over the festive period it may have been largely the result of higher prices rather than volumes. I always like to look at alcohol as a measure, and talking to wine merchants, sales are buoyant.”
One thing we can be pretty sure of is, this Easter will be more than just chocolate eggs. Yes, we all love chocolate eggs, but family meals and being together will trump everything. So, how can fine food indies make the most of this?
“Our main focus in the lead up to Easter will be on fresh produce for amazing family meals at home,” says Samantha. “With events like these it’s all about coming together with your loved ones and the joy of sharing a meal.”
The trend of eating at home rather than going out may have started during lockdown, but it’s certainly flourished even more in more recent times. Edward sees a way indies can tap into the ‘entertain at home’ trend.
“Many people who shop in indies are keen cooks. When it comes to entertaining at home, sound suggestion, packaged in meal deal offers, or cross promotions work really well.”
Counting the cost
But not everyone sees this as a time to be quite so optimistic. For some, the tough times experienced by customers are all too close to home and there’s less room for manoeuvre when it comes to planning for Easter. For Mark Kacary, managing director at The Norfolk Deli, Easter will be a small affair.
“If anything, we have vastly reduced what we are doing for Easter. We would prefer to sell out rather than be overstocked. We are located in a very conservative, ageing part of the country. As a business we rely more on holidaymakers and online sales than we do on local business. Our nod to Easter will include a small selection of chocolate eggs, simnel cake and little else.”
For Lou Macdonald, owner at New Macdonald’s Farm Shop, it’s about understanding the hardships customers are facing and offering alternatives that are affordable and still Easter specific.
“We will source cheaper food options for sure this year as many families and individuals are on tight financial budgets. We will include ‘specials’ and ‘budget’ offers like our ‘wonky’ eggs - imperfect shells but perfectly good contents. It’s a bit like wonky veg!”
Edward Berry agrees, and thinks sometimes sticking to what you know will work for each holiday season, is the best road to take.
“I tend to advise not attempting to be too adventurous at Christmas, and the same applies to Easter. It may sound boring, but its only once a year, and the tried and trusted tend to be the most popular. However, as retailers it’s how we present, merchandise, entertain and sell that matter most.”
The opportunity of Easter
Like any holiday or seasonal date in the calendar, Easter shouldn’t be seen as one-dimensional. While businesses are busy selling Easter they can also be selling so much more. Edward sees Easter as an opportunity to sell the business as a whole and this starts with making customers aware of your business. By selling Easter you’re selling your business.
“Like Valentine’s or Christmas, Easter is a great opportunity to connect with your regulars and draw in new customers with special promotions, a fresh, exciting Easter range, and fun for the whole family. It’s a moment to advertise Easter promotions and opening hours on your website and social media pages well in advance of Easter. You could also instruct staff to mention your Easter specials and deals to customers a month ahead.”
For Samantha Riddington, Easter equals spring and the two can be sold together and are interchangeable. “Spring for us is a time to celebrate colourful veggies, fresh free-range eggs and joints of meat, alongside fresh daffodils and tulips and of course lots of chocolate.
“We always like to have some special products for occasions, so you’ll find cute chick and bunny cakes, cookies, hot cross buns and local bakery products. A fun experience for our customers adds to the experience of Easter.”