December is typically one of the busiest months of the year for businesses. Celebrations, parties, and get-togethers punctuate the four weeks up to New Year, while consumers spend money on everything from gifts to decorations.
According to statistics from the National Retail Federation, Americans spent an average of $998 each during last year’s holiday season and total sales reached a staggering $729 billion in 2019.
The coffee sector is no different and most roasters anticipate an influx of orders during this time, whether for merchandise, monthly subscriptions, or limited edition products. As such, it’s important for roasters to be prepared and ensure they have sufficient resources to meet demand.
To learn more about what coffee roasters can do in preparation for a busy holiday period, I spoke with WBC-certified judge and WCE representative, Danilo Lodi.
Why is the holiday season an important time for coffee roasters?
Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve, Winter Solstice – December is a month packed full of festivities across a range of countries, cultures, and religions.
It should come as no surprise, then, that it’s also one of the most hectic periods for businesses, many of which see a sudden and dramatic rise in customers.
Data from the Bank of England shows that in the run up to Christmas the spending habits of UK households change, with an average increase of around £740 in December – 29% more than in a typical month.
As such, businesses that properly plan and prepare for this period of the year can generally expect a higher turnover of sales, especially when they are able to entice these high purchase intent shoppers.
Danilo tells me that in few sectors is this more salient than coffee, which tends to experience a spike in demand during the holiday season.
“Coffee is a very easy gift to give,” he says. “I also think a lot of people start getting interested in it because someone gave them a hand grinder or some good coffee as a present.”
To capitalise on this trend, a number of brands start offering limited edition coffees around the start of December.
For example, US coffee chain Starbucks introduces its festive menu that includes the likes of Toffee Nut, Gingerbread, and Eggnog Lattes, while Taylor of Harrogate releases its Christmas Blend in specially designed packaging.
While the holiday period offers various additional sales opportunities for businesses, it can also be a good time to build positive brand association by adopting themes linked to specific festivities.
For example, Costa Coffee released a short Christmas-themed film called Wish Upon A Costa in 2019, which promoted the idea of Christmas being a time for people to come together over coffee.
Standing out from the competition
The specialty coffee sector is a competitive market during the best of times. However, during the holiday season, almost every roaster and coffee shop ramps up its marketing efforts, making it even more difficult to stand out.
Consequently, Danilo explains that from his experience, the most successful brands during this period tend to be the ones that take a slightly less conventional approach.
“Try to think outside the box,” he says. “Think about what you can sell to add value to your coffee for the end customer.”
One option could be to curate gift boxes that include a bag of coffee alongside other, less obvious items, such as a book, a plant, or a beer-making kit.
Roasters could also explore the possibility of selling coffee in smaller quantities to allow consumers to try different origins, processing methods, and flavour notes.
Pact Coffee does this to considerable success with its yearly advent calendar that includes a different 20g coffee sachet behind each door in addition to 25 festive coffee cards.
Additionally, providing perks with purchases can help boost customer conversion rates. For example, Danilo says offering consumers a chance to win prizes through lucky draws when they buy coffee during the holiday season is an effective way of improving sales.
“I’d also suggest using this approach to push subscriptions,” he says. “Perhaps you could offer customers who buy a certain amount of coffee the first month free of a subscription.
“Then, if they want to keep receiving coffee every month, they will need to pay. It’s basically a way of trying to sell a little more coffee.”
As well as increasing sales, specialty roasters might consider opening up their workspaces and offering events, such as cupping sessions or roastery tours. This is a great way of engaging customers and standing out from the competition.
How to prepare for the holiday season
A common mistake made by many coffee roasters is to assume they can handle additional orders during December without taking adequate measures beforehand.
However, what tends to happen is that orders come flying in, staff are overwhelmed, and stocks run dry. Customers are then left with no choice but to buy from competitors.
To ensure a smooth and successful holiday period, Danilo recommends checking past sales data.
This data, which accumulates over the years, can provide immensely valuable insights, such as information on products that sold well or marketing strategies that brought in extra sales.
Additionally, they can help guide the allocation of resources to different tasks and expose any gaps that will need to be filled by extra staff members.
“Try to check if you’re going to be short on people to pack and send coffee,” Danilo says. “Order volumes are often higher at the end of the year, so maybe you’ll hire someone to cover some shifts for this period of time.”
He also suggests assessing shipping and expected delivery schedules, both for getting your products to consumers and ensuring you have the right stock ahead of time.
Green coffee can often take weeks, if not months, to arrive at the port, where it can spend a significant time sitting in warehouses. Similarly, the lead time on packaging, labels, and boxes can stretch into months if there are supply chain issues, such as material shortages.
Therefore, if you’ve decided to sell limited edition coffee or merchandise during the holiday period, don’t wait until November to submit designs. Plan well ahead and ensure you have the exact quantity of packaging or items to hand before you start promoting them.
That way, when the orders do come flying in, you’re ready to meet demand.
Similarly, confirm with your local supplier how long it will take to get your products delivered to consumers before the holiday season and try to create order cut-off dates based on that.
No matter what your approach is this Christmas, one thing is certain: packaging plays an important role in capturing attention and showcasing your commitment to celebrating the season with your customers.
At MTPak Coffee, we offer a range of sustainable packaging with low minimum order quantities (MOQs), the perfect option for coffee roasters to stock up on seasonal packaging. With MOQs as little as 500 units, you run a lower risk of having excess stock that you have to keep for another year.