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The party food opportunity is constantly changing as consumers’ tastes evolve, with buying teams’ focus moving as the public demands new and different solutions to the festive season.
This is certainly the case at Macknade. “For the first year ever, we are pro-actively targeting corporates and groups with our Christmas party menus,” says Rosie Collins, marketing director at the company. “Previously, this was done on a reactive basis, but this year, we have created two special menus for our Ashford and Faversham sites, showcasing our wonderful ingredients from in-store. This year, the menus feature slow-grown Kentish turkey, Macknade panettone and Ashmore cheese profiteroles!”
For Laura Roberts, owner of Laura’s Larder, this year provides a new opportunity to showcase your customer service skills after a challenging few years for many. “I’ve got a lot of people coming into the shop worried as they haven’t entertained for so long, or their children are now vegan or have vegan partners. Our role as guides and advisors this year is more important than ever.”
While customer service is the backbone of independent retail, it’s always worth putting in that extra effort to develop strong, lasting relationships with your shops. “Building trust with your customers so they know you are selling them what is best for their request and not what is going to make you the most money is imperative and they will come back to you time and time again as a result,” says Laura.
“Listen to them, you don’t have to throw everything in the air and change your strategy as a result but tailor and tweak, and you will be rewarded.”
The cost-of-living crisis should be back of mind for all retailers as it is for consumers, but that’s not to say that shoppers will forgo indulgence come party season.
“My buying strategy for this whole season is around ‘little luxuries’. I’ve based this partially on the theory that when facing an economic crisis consumers will be more willing to buy less costly luxury goods - it’s called The Lipstick Effect. We don’t expect people to be buying huge luxurious items but we think they will still spend on little luxuries.”
Different shoppers could have different definitions of luxuries, however. “Luxury as a concept is interesting however and can mean different things to different people.
Items can be the obvious luxury such as chocolate truffles, or truffled cheese, or a beautiful smoked salmon side (check out Lambton and Jackson’s sashimi cut sides – wonderful for parties), but it can also mean “this product has saved me time”, or “this product has made me look good in front of my friends or family” so we are thinking about all these concepts of luxury and we’ve price capped what we think people might be willing to pay (a new factor for this year) and we’re hoping, as a result, our money will be spent wisely,” says Laura. “Time will tell!”
However the economic and social powers play out over the next few months, customers will undoubtedly be looking for some edible escapism come party season – affordable but delicious food and drink to see out the year in style.
Says Laura, “We have gone from promoting eat-at-home seafood platters during the pandemic (with scheduled collection slots!) through a slightly braver 2021 to a – we hope – happier and more inclusive party season in 2022.
No one knows what 2023 holds for us, but we know it’s not going to be great, so let’s get the sequins out and party while we can, right?
Christmas content supported by Woolcool – the pioneers of sustainable temperature-controlled packaging.