Is your brand ready for the changing retail calendar?

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Brands could be missing out on big sales opportunities by failing to take advantage of key cultural events throughout the year, new research suggests.

As the Islamic festival of Ramadan comes to a close, British Muslims are looking forward to Eid al-Fitr, which starts next Monday (28 July) and is a time to feast after a month of fasting.

However, brands and businesses are less than adept at reaching this audience, according to a study by creative agency Haygarth. It shows that 30 per cent of Asian or British Asian respondents plan to shop for Ramadan and Eid.

Although large supermarket chains often tailor their food lines around ethnic communities living in the catchment areas of their stores, Anthony Donaldson, planning director at Haygarth, believes that UK-based brands are failing to capitalise on these specific occasions.

“Brands are missing out,” he says. “Ramadan is a fasting occasion but it’s also a period when lots of food is consumed after the sun goes down.

“Food and feasting play a major part in this long, religious celebration, yet I don’t know any food brand that has thought creatively about how it might link with the occasion.”

The study claims that the retail calendar is becoming increasingly complex as a result of changing demographics, cultural trends and new marketing techniques.

It suggests that some brands have neglected national occasions such as St George’s Day, for which 11 per cent of UK consumers plan to spend money in the coming year, or failed to recognise the opportunities around events such as Halloween (36 per cent). Twenty-six per cent of Asian or British Asians plan to shop for the Hindu festival of Diwali, which falls on 23 October this year.

What percentage of people intend to shop for the following events

“A significant proportion of consumers want brands to inspire them to shop in different ways, so it’s up to brands to push themselves to think creatively about how they can tap into some of these events,” says Donaldson.

The survey asks 1,000 UK adults whether they plan to shop for different occasions over the coming year, ranging from major events such as Christmas to bank holidays, sporting events and religious festivals.

It shows that after Christmas (83 per cent), Mother’s Day is the next most popular event among shoppers, with 54 per cent of people saying they plan to shop for the event next year. This is followed by Easter (51 per cent), Valentine’s Day (45 per cent) and Father’s Day (44 per cent).

According to Donaldson, the high scores for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day highlight opportunities for brands to target consumers with offers that extend beyond the traditional gifts bought for these occasions. He suggests that brands should seek to engage with consumers in imaginative ways, particularly given the emotional impact of both events.

“The days of giving a bunch of flowers or a ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ mug are long gone,” says Donaldson. “Consumers are increasingly looking to have unique and personal experiences that go beyond simple gifting.”

The study cites the example of liqueur brand Baileys, which placed a sponsored post for Mother’s Day on the Mumsnet forum asking women to talk about the most important lessons they had learned from their mothers.

The post generated more than 200 responses, some of which provided user-generated content for the brand’s social media marketing around the event. Baileys also offered Mumsnet users the chance to win prizes for Mother’s Day.

The research also identifies less notable events that present opportunities for brands. These include Shrove Tuesday, popularly known as Pancake Day, for which 43 per cent of people say they are planning to shop next year. This is followed by a series of national days including St George’s Day (11 per cent), St Patrick’s Day (10 per cent) and Chinese New Year (7 per cent).

Will men or women spend more on the following cutural events and holidays

Donaldson notes that a large number of food and drink brands can draw on their provenance in order to increase their visibility around these dates, while retailers can target their promotions to reach people of particular nationalities who are likely to celebrate such occasions.

In addition to traditional events and celebrations, the research identifies new dates in the retail calendar that have emerged as a result of ecommerce. It includes Black Friday – the Friday after Thanksgiving that is regarded by many in the US as the start of the Christmas shopping season, and Cyber Monday – another US import – which is often the first Monday in December.

Brands typically discount heavily on these days, encouraging a significant proportion of shoppers to go online or into stores in search of deals. According to the Haygarth research, 7 per cent of UK shoppers plan to make a purchase on one of these dates.

Sarah Calcott, senior marketing director at eBay, believes that last year’s ‘Cyber Weekend’ was by far the biggest ever for the auction website in the UK. “I would say that it was a tipping point for the idea in the minds of the British public,” she adds.

Calcott reveals that eBay develops its marketing strategy for the Christmas period by seeking to mirror the consumer psyche. “We know they start with a more engaged browsing mindset and are looking for products to inspire and delight,” she says.

Ebay Christmas
eBay says ‘Cyber weekend’ was it’s biggest ever

“As we move closer to Christmas we know that customers move to a more specific gift-purchasing mindset. Our campaigns reflect this shift, beginning with a more inspirational approach and moving on to foregrounding more of our great deals and value-led promotions during the later stages of peak trading.”

Some events or trading periods are more specific to particular brands. The annual summer blockbuster season, for example, presents an opportunity for brands that have an association to cinema or cinema-going.

This is true for food company Metcalfe’s, which this month launched its biggest ever advertising campaign for its healthy popcorn brand skinny Topcorn. The £1m campaign is running across primetime TV spots, pop-up cinema screenings, gym TV, video-on-demand and social media both this month and again in November. This approach is designed to increase the brand’s visibility at different points in the year, including when cinema attendance is typically higher.


“As this was our first TV campaign, we were keen to make maximum impact, which is why we have structured the campaign around sharp bursts of activity,” explains Natalie Sugarman, head of marketing for Metcalfe’s Food Company.

“By splitting the campaign into two bursts we are able to create a stronger presence in the market through increased television viewer ratings.”

Marketers’ response

Sarah Calcott

Sarah Calcott, Senior marketing director, eBay

We do navigate towards big consumer moments of celebration such as Mother’s Day, Valentine’s, Father’s Day and Halloween. Our strength is our unparalleled selection – more than 650 million products – helping customers to find a unique item that expresses their personality and brings the moment of celebration to life.

Bank holidays are key dates for eBay too as we know this is a time when our customers enjoy browsing and shopping. We tend to focus on promotional activity to help drive conversion.

It’s not only around specific dates as there are also seasons or broader moments that resonate with our customers, for example practical shopping occasions such as buying your summer holiday essentials or back to school.

Natalie Sugarman

Natalie Sugarman, Head of marketing, Metcalfe’s Food Company

We decided to launch our new TV campaign in July, mainly to maximise brand awareness in the height of summer when health and wellness is front of mind for most consumers. There is also the summer cinema screenings to consider, which is why we have supported our campaign with gym TV and 150 pop-up cinema screenings.

Aside from this campaign, generally our strategy is to keep a consistent brand awareness through the year as much as possible because, ultimately, healthier snacking is relevant and right at all times throughout the calendar year. However, there are times of the year when healthier snacking is in the spotlight such as the summer and January, which we support in our marketing too.


Creative agency Haygarth surveyed 1,000 UK adults using the online survey tool Toluna. Participants were given a list of events over the course of the year, from sporting events to public holidays and religious festivals and were asked for which events they specifically planned to shop or make a purchase. The majority of respondents were the main shopper in the household and responsible for purchase decisions.

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