“Indulgence, reassurance and convenience will be key this Christmas” says Booths

21 August 2020, 11:41 AM
  • Like all food retailers, Booths is facing a unique and challenging set of circumstances this quarter, but remaining loyal to its core principles will stand it in good stead
“Indulgence, reassurance and convenience will be key this Christmas” says Booths

With a strong reputation for sourcing high quality, local produce, backing its suppliers and providing exceptional customer service, Booths is gearing up for Christmas 2020 in a robust position, despite the challenges of the past year.

2020 certainly started well - sales were up 3.5% in the three weeks leading up to Christmas, a success attributed in part by CEO Edwin Booth to the supermarket’s “excellent service and exceptional food and drink.” Healthy pre-ordering also contributed, as orders from Booths’ Christmas Book (a 180-page hardback volume that enables customers to peruse and order Booths festive ranges) increased by 6.8% during the period. Sales continued to stay strong for the New Year, with party food and drinks driving a further 7% increase compared to the previous year.

Click & collect
The supermarket, which operates 28 stores across Cumbria, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Cheshire, operated a successful click & collect service over the 2019 Christmas period and was planning to turn it into a year-round service - a plan accelerated in lockdown through necessity. The service is now established in providing customers with a great selection of fantastic tasting Best of Booths products for that special occasion, and will be a strong asset in the last quarter of 2020.

Booths Brand and Innovations manager, Matthew Bruno, acknowledges that “this year has been a huge challenge for many people - economically, socially and personally.” Like many local food retailers, Booths reacted quickly to deliver grocery bundles to vulnerable local customers and implemented an efficient next-day click & collect service - lifelines to customers unable to visit shops or secure delivery slots from large supermarket chains. 

“We had to shift our functioning and respond to all the new challenges overnight,” Bruno recalls. “As a smaller, regional supermarket we were well positioned to adapt and pivot quickly, and we benefited from a strong, close-knit team.” Booths’ short supply chains and good relationships with local suppliers proved vital during the period of supply disruption that affected larger supermarkets adversely. “We communicated well with suppliers to manage those sudden and unexpected increases in demand,” says Bruno. “Maintaining stock of some of the larger, branded lines was a well-documented challenge, but our buyers quickly sourced new products so we were able to keep essentials like pasta on the shelves.” 

Christmas 2020
The food development team and buyers were already well advanced with developing Christmas lines before Covid struck, and many of 2019’s bestsellers - Bells of Lazonby mince pies, turkeys and turkey crowns and own-brand party food (sales of pigs in blankets and stuffing balls were up 25% and 85% last year) - will feature again in this year’s Christmas Book. “We have extended our range of starters this year, as well as more food from local and regional suppliers,” explains Bruno. “This Christmas we have more fish and seafood, with around 80 new lines being introduced into our Christmas Book, including local potted shrimps and smoked salmon from Yorkshire. Booths’ customers love great quality and are engaged in trying new things. Our themes this year are centred around sharing good food with friends and family - all with that extra special element.”

Customer indulgence, convenience and reassurance will be key this Christmas, predicts Bruno. “Our convenient click & collect service will continue to run well into December, being replaced by Christmas click & collect orders in the final shopping days,” he explains. “Customers will also be able to buy bundles that combine customer convenience with luxury.” Options include specialist rare breed meat cuts, premium party food and easy special occasion meals, such as an eggs royale breakfast for two, which includes locally-sourced smoked salmon and Booths Champagne.

Seasonal marketing
Talking to customers is a key strategy for Booths at all times of the year, not just at Christmas. “From October onwards, we launch our amazing Christmas Book, with recipe ideas and producer stories supported by social media and email, just as with all seasonal product drives and promotions,” Bruno explains.

“During its limited spring season we promoted Herdwick lamb (Booths is the only major retailer to stock this gamey upland meat), with photography of our supplier, Ian Knight, and his flocks. Now we’re into autumn we’re promoting saltmarsh lamb from Morecambe Bay. We support the British fruit and veg seasons too, using videos and photography to show the journey from our growers to our own team of ‘fruit butchers’ who cut and prepare the produce ready for sale. Christmas is the same: it’s about enforcing the message that we sell only the best, and reassuring customers of quality and provenance.”

Supporting farmers and local suppliers
Booths’ unique reputation hinges on supporting its local suppliers and producers. When the cafe and restaurant trade closed during lockdown, and British farmhouse cheeses and other wholesalers found themselves in a critical position with surplus stock, Booths stepped up with a campaign of store promotions, displays and special offers. “It was more than a positive marketing message - our customers appreciated the great value offers and it kept our producers supported at a critical time,” Bruno explains.

In June Booths publicly supported the NFU’s food standards petition in support of Britain’s farmers, growers and producers. Booths also contributes to the Prince’s Countryside Fund, donating over £150K over the past seven years to supporting farmers and rural initiatives. It all helps to cement the supermarket’s reputation as a genuine advocate for British farming.

Staff and customer safety
Booths is renowned for its excellent customer service, and this year it’s critical. “We communicate directly to our customers through our suppliers and our colleagues,” says Bruno, “so it’s vital our customers and colleagues are reassured of a safe, comfortable environment in which to shop and work this Christmas. Having a trained colleague on the door - greeting customers, engaging with them, ensuring they have a clean and sanitised trolley - helps to reassure our customers as they enter the store.”

Friendly, knowledgeable staff are also more proficient in converting sales at the counter. “Recently one of our regional meat suppliers provided video training to our team in butchery, with colleagues given chops and rib eye steaks to cook at home,” Bruno explains, showing that training and outstanding customer service doesn’t have to stop with social distancing.

“Booths has great connections to customers on email and a large audience on social media,” says Bruno, dismissing any concerns that a Covid Christmas could dampen the retailer’s community spirit. “In-store demos, events and tastings may have to pause this year, but we can still run online video events like wine tastings and continue with some elements of Christmas product sampling by post. Popular events, like our special afternoon tea, can also be transported to customers’ homes.”

Just like all food and drink retailers, Booths will be confronted with challenges during 2020’s last quarter, but has shown resilience in its ongoing commitment to quality, provenance and exceptional customer service. Says Bruno, “We are confident we can provide our customers with a true sense of occasion this Christmas, while ensuring their comfort and safety.”

Speciality Food Daily Briefing

Stay connected and receive the latest news, analysis and insights from our industry's top commentators