Easter is a major date in the diary for so many FMCG manufacturers, particularly food producers and chocolate giants like Cadbury and Nestle.
But with government calling on the public to stay home where possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the holiday weekend is going to look very different for everyone. Bans on social gatherings mean no big family get-togethers and no outdoor Easter egg hunts for the kids, which is bound to have an impact on sales.
But despite the restrictions and financial uncertainty, there’s still a desire to indulge in a treat or purchase a gift for a loved one at the premium end of the market at least, albeit online, according to Haigh’s Chocolates CEO Alister Haigh.
“We’re finding that their buying more than last year,” Haigh told Inside FMCG.
“They can’t go go out to a restaurant and they can’t go to a pub, so they’ve essentially got more disposable income through the restrictions. They’re stocking up to stay home.”
With consumers confined to their homes for the most part, online sales at Haigh’s have increased significantly.
“We’ve noticed because of the current climate, there’s been a big increase in online sales and a significant drop in sales in our CBD stores, which is understandable when everyone’s being told to go and work from home,” Haigh said.
“We’ve got less customers in our existing stores but the customers that are there are actually buying more and and they’re buying more Easter because they’re not sure they’ll be able to get back a second time.”
In response to the changing consumer behaviour, Haigh’s was able to act quickly to adapt the supply chain and ensure there is enough stock in place for online orders and that certain stores are not overstocked in the run up to Easter.
The chocolate company had planned to upgrade its online system but fortunately had put it off until after Easter.
“The old system is coping, I don’t know how many band-aids it’s got on but it’s coping so it’s not bad!
“Once we get the orders, the issue is the volume to pack and then to ship. At the moment our transport company logistics are coping, so fingers crossed that keeps going. We’re looking at some backup plans obviously but that’s the bottle neck, it’s not the software and receiving the orders at this stage.”
While all stores remain open for now, Haigh is expecting that foot traffic will continue to be low.
“I don’t know about your crystal ball, but ours is a bit cloudy at the moment!”
“We class ourselves as as a food so hopefully we’ll be able to remain open, but it’ll be more lack of customers more than anything else that might affect sales. We’re definitely not expecting the rush in the last week that normally happens. We think it will drop away significantly in the last week.”
Whatever the result, Haigh has already got his sights set on next year, with two new stores set to open by that time, most likely in Sydney and Melbourne.
“We’ve got to work at least a year in advance as far as planning goes, We’re well in advance with Easter next year.”