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In 2020, the edible gift was a highlight of the festive season for fine food retailers. Shoppers were keen to send parcels of food and hampers of local treats to friends and family who they couldn’t see over the holidays, and the closure of non-essential retail made food shops a prime venue for gift-hunting.
The Omicron variant is causing clouds of uncertainty to gather over Christmas once again – does this mean retailers can expect another bumper season for foodie gifts? The data looks positive. Even before the Omicron variant threw Christmas plans into doubt, food and drink gifts were expected to be a source of growth for retailers this year. Almost six in 10 consumers said they will give the same or more food gifts this year compared to last, Accenture’s Annual Holiday Survey revealed. Festive tipples are on the table too, with four in 10 saying they will buy the same or more drink gifts in 2021.
The options are limitless when it comes to gifting food and drink this year, thanks to consumers’ newfound confidence in the delivery of fresh or chilled products. With fresh cheeses to local produce hampers all fair game, here are four ways retailers can ensure their products get the tills ringing this year.
Whether or not the arrival of the Omicron variant leads to another lockdown, online sales are expected to remain strong this Christmas. Ensuring that your shop offers a seamless digital experience is the best way to guarantee repeat custom. “The easier the online shopping experience, the greater the boost to sales in the run up to Christmas,” said Ana Martins, co-founder of Pantree, an online marketplace for fine food. Her shop aims to reduce digital shopping friction by allowing customers to buy directly from numerous partner vendors yet receive everything in one package.
“This means that they can sort gifts for multiple people at once, without having to worry about tracking and paying for multiple packages,” she said. Consider how your e-commerce shop could be simplified – can you offer free deliveries for locals or team up with another business in the community to become a one-stop shop for various products?
“The ‘conscious shopper’ is no longer a niche, it’s the norm,” said Ana. Indeed, Accenture’s report revealed that 55% of consumers would ‘definitely’ buy food gifts if the packaging was environmentally friendly. Pantree’s experiences back this up. “We’re consistently hearing from our customers that Pantree’s use of eco-packaging and carbon neutral delivery is playing a key role in convincing them to make their purchase,” Ana explained. “Our most successful partner vendors are the ones who do the best job at weaving their sustainable credentials into their product and brand story, such as Small Beer, who are global leaders in reducing water wastage during the brewing process.”
“People’s values are increasingly becoming infused in their consumption habits,” added Accenture’s global lead of consumer goods and services, Oliver Wright. “They’re more aware of what they’re buying and the impact this can have on their health and the health of our planet. Covid really fast-tracked these kinds of concerns around sustainability.” Accommodate these desires in your gift-ready range with sustainable brands wrapped up in eco-friendly packaging.
What is it that makes your shop’s products stand out? Are they made by local producers or to impressively high environmental standards? Showcasing these products on your website or social media is a sure-fire way to boost online engagement with your business, according to Ana. “In a period where everyone is bombarded with Christmas marketing, another important factor in capturing consumer attention is to focus on organic content creation,” she told Speciality Food.
Can you give customers a taster of what it’s like to shop in your store before they step foot inside? “People are interested in more than just a product photo,” Ana explained. “What does your behind-the-scenes process look like? What is the experience of unwrapping the gift? What are some exciting recipes and serving suggestions? We’ve seen a lot of engagement through Instagram reels, videos and interactive content across the board.”
A luxury hamper or a gift set of premium chocolates will always fly off the shelves at Christmas, but can you expand your range by selling experiences, too? “After spending so much time at home, many households are in a different frame of mind as they think about how to celebrate the festive season,” said Oliver. “Last year, consumers were restricted on the gifts they could buy. This year, we expect to see people redirect spend away from physical items and seek out gifting experiences, such as gift cards to eat out in restaurants and cookery classes – something that wasn’t possible a year ago.” If you have a café or restaurant, be sure to team this up with your retail arm. Or why not join forces with a local producer for a tasting course or live cooking demo?
This year, despite rising inflation and endless headlines about Covid-19, you can create a source of inspiration and joy for your customers through a thoughtful gift range.