Easter Grocery Round-Up

Easter is a lot like Christmas

Easter week is a key trading period in the Irish grocery calendar. It is similar in nature to Christmas though smaller in scale. All the categories have an active plan across fresh, ambient and non-food with key areas such as fish, confectionery, bakery, flowers, alcohol and produce seeing strong uplifts.

Congested Mini-Events

It is an interesting trading period since it follows a post-Christmas lull and takes in trade opportunities starting with Ash Wednesday (fish) and moving through St Patrick’s Day (alcohol) and Mothers Day (flowers), culminating in Good Friday (more fish), Easter Sunday (bakery, meat, fish, chocolate eggs, flowers), the Bank Holiday weekend (more alcohol) and back to school (lunchbox fillers). Depending on when Easter falls, there can be considerable congestion with these mini events which can be an operational and marketing challenge. Equally problematic, with Easter Sunday potentially varying from  23rd March in 2008 to 24th April in 2011, there can be considerably different weather year on year. An early Easter can be a ‘roasting’ meats opportunity but a late Easter is into BBQ territory.

Strategic Direction

The retail strategy at Easter, as with Christmas, is a good indicator of overall strategic direction so it is important to watch closely.  I carried out research which included an in-store product & price survey  (Tesco, Dunnes, SuperValu, Aldi & Lidl), marketing review (mainly leaflets and press-ads) and a simple online consumer survey.  The product & price review captured >200 lines across key food and drink categories.  This was narrowed down to 80 key lines available in all 5 retailers and then narrowed further to 35 essential Easter seasonal products e.g. lamb legs, chocolate eggs, hot cross buns, fresh fish, prosecco and a fry-up) .

Here are some take-outs:

  1. The simplest value available was in Aldi where the top 35 lines could be picked up for €156.08.
  2. The cheapest shop theoretically could be done in Tesco where the same top 35 lines cost €181.69 but, since Tesco were accepting competitor coupons, could be bought for €151.69 by redeeming 3 x €10 Dunnes Stores ‘shop & save’ vouchers.
  3. Premium private label ranges featured strongly again following a strong presence during Christmas 2016.  In Aldi and Lidl, Specially Selected and Deluxe products made up almost 40% of the lines surveyed in the full basket and demonstrates a major strategic effort to bring value back to categories deflated by price reductions over the last 3 years.
  4. The tastiest hot cross bun (in my opinion) was from Stafford’s Bakery in Wexford.  It scored 9/10 and contained 5x as much fruit as the lowest scoring contender.
  5. Aldi were the only retailer to offer nationwide availability of new season spring lamb.
  6. Tesco had the best branded Easter Egg offer with the joint lowest price on medium eggs at €1.45 but with a vastly superior range and good availability.

For the full free report please email me at malachy@foodfirstconsulting.ie

Christmas Crescendo

Image copyright Paula Nolan Photography

I love Christmas – the whole crazy crescendo

I love Christmas.  I really love Christmas.  I love the buzz of making the season unfold and every year there’s a new surprise.  I love the pace and the satisfaction of pulling the whole operation together.  The ups and downs, the highs and lows of managing sales, volumes, quality and pricing.

I love the the whole crazy crescendo of nervous energy, excitement and tension.  You can barely take a day off in the last few weeks.  By 23rd December you and your team are truly running on empty.

Reserves?…There are none 

And you reach a point where there’s nothing much more you can do.  All the stock is out on shelf, all the pre-orders have been fulfilled, the final press ad deadline has passed, what will be will be. It’s down to the customers now.

It’s a bit like the pivotal scene in ‘The Battle of Britain’ when Prime Minister Churchill asks Fighter Command’s Air Vice Marshall Keith Park…

what other reserves have we?

and Park replies;

there are none

Breathing a sigh of relief

Suddenly, its late afternoon on Christmas eve.  You breath a sigh of relief because it is time to wrap up.  You’ve given it everything and the team are exhausted.  Another Christmas season under your belt.  Time to close up and make for home.

That’s the best bit of Christmas for me (and possibly for many of us obsessive compulsive retailers).  I love the journey home, an epic trading period behind me and nothing but family and friends ahead.

10 days to go – My first Christmas 2016 recce

It’s Thursday 15th December 2016 with just 10 trading days until Christmas. The weather has changed again and it’s 10oC outside.  Not at all wintry and certainly bad for sales!

I’ve taken a quick spin around the local Tesco, Dunnes, SuperValu, Lidl and Aldi stores.  Everyone is ready and braced for the first BIG shopping day on Saturday 17th. 

But something isn’t right….

………….there’s no buzz.

Then I remember that the children are still at school and there are lunch boxes to be filled. All the Christmas stock is out, except for the turkeys, which should start appearing the following Monday/Tuesday 19th/20th.

First up – best dressed

Tesco and Aldi are first out of the blocks with their 49c offers on carrots, sprouts, parsnips and yellow melons. Dunnes Stores follow on Saturday 17th.  It’s been a good few years since the days of 9c veg and IFA pickets

Food First Consulting Malachy O'Connor
Image copyright Paula Nolan Photography

Make or break

It’s the best time of the retail year.  Christmas can make or break your year as a retailer.  And it can result in a few grey hairs for the buyers if they run out of stock or realise they’ve ordered too much (you only ever have a 1 in 3 chance of getting it right!).

I wish the suppliers and farmers a safe Christmas as they deal with bad weather, stubborn machinery and short lead times.  With the help of God we’ll have no fatal farm accidents this Christmas.

Finally, I wish a merry Christmas trading season to all the retail operations folk who will work exceptionally hard to serve their customers in the next few days.

Merry Christmas


Food First Consulting

Christmas Mince Pies Food First Consulting