With Halloween over for another year, it’s time for retailers to dial up Christmas including our independent, convenience and fine food store customers. Behind the shop floor, stock planning and ordering for seasonal events in the year ahead such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Easter is also well underway.

We caught up with Ben Axcell, assistant store manager at Eat17 in Whitstable. Given that the store is situated very close to Whitstable Seafront, it’s a seasonal store with sales peaking during holidays…so seasonal planning is essential!

With the other Eat17 stores being long-term Cotswold Fayre customers, it’s no surprise that the Whitstable branch has stocked our products since opening a year and a half ago. The convenience store stocks a mix of everyday items and fine food products.

Ben says: “We find our customers love that we offer a mix of everyday items with higher quality products that they can’t find in supermarkets. It means they can get their regular items as well as different finer quality products all at the same time. For instance, customers may pick up Gordon’s gin but buy Fever Tree tonic to go with it, or buy a relatively standard packet of crackers but pair it with a speciality, local chutney.”

Ben also offers some merchandising tips for retailers stocking a similar variety of everyday and speciality products, saying: “To encourage our customers to trade up from their everyday items to a finer quality version, we find placing all varieties of one product next to each other on shelf works well. Take ketchup, for example, we have the entire range from Heinz to Stokes displayed alongside each other for customers to easily see what is available and encourage a trade up.”

Seasonal displays are also a key driver for boosting sales in store for Eat17. There is always an in-store table display and a front window display with the latest offerings.

“We use in-store displays to showcase our most unique and eye-catching products that we want to highlight to customers, or potential customers, as being different to what they find in larger grocery stores and supermarkets”, says Ben.

“Our window display is primarily to get new customers through the door and in the same way as the in-store display, we know this works as customers regularly seek out those products on display on the shop floor.”

“To showcase new and different products, we often do in store sampling as we find once customers actually taste a fine food product they may never have seen before, they like it and buy it.”

For Christmas, the store also offers a bespoke hamper making service to customers for creation and purchase in-store. Throughout the festive period hampers are showcased around a Christmas tree on the shop floor to build awareness of this seasonal service and encourage sales.

“All year round we do have a number of top selling categories from Cotswold Fayre including crisps and snacks, soft drinks and confectionery. Fever Tree and Belvoir drinks are very popular and although we stock almost the entire range of confectionery on offer at Cotswold Fayre, Monty Bojangles’ chocolate truffles are selling particularly well”, adds Ben.

Eat17 is also popular with those customers looking for locally sourced products. Ben says: “We love that we are able to get some local stock through Cotswold Fayre to help us cut down on the number of orders and deliveries. Most often, we get requests from customers specifically asking for Wild at Heart’s range of condiments as these are produced in Kent…and are delicious!”

In the coming months, Eat17 is looking to grow its local offering as well as grow even further those areas that are doing well, such as snacks, soft drinks and confectionery. It would also like to develop its name as a store and become better known in the South – and we think they’re going about it perfectly! Keep doing what you’re doing Eat17!

For more information please feel free to email us at sales@cotswold-fayre.co.uk or call us on 03452 606060.