The Bard’s Boost to the Trade

In amongst all the chatter about January traditionally being the quietest month, let’s not forget that this month boasts one of the most important nights in the Scottish social calendar. There’s also quite a lot to shout about on the Scottish brand front, too. Jason Caddy investigates.

It might be the bleak midwinter, but there’s no reason your January sales should be miserable, as this is the month Scotland celebrates its most famous son, Rabbie Burns. The hype around St Andrew may have inflated in recent years, but our Patron Saint is a long way off eclipsing our Bard. So Friday 25th January is the perfect opportunity to bring some post-Christmas cheer to your customers, and, yes, Burns Night even falls on a Friday this year.
Sarah MacFarlane organises events for Glasgow’s Oran Mor, and she’s noticed an upward swing in this year’s Burns Night interest compared to previous years. She said, “We only opened the bookings for Burns Night last week and we have been inundated. There’s definitely more interest at this stage than other years. I don’t know whether this is due to the fact that we went a little off piste and put on a play last year, and that this year we’re back to the more conventional celebration. Or it could simply be down to the fact this year Burns Night falls on a Friday.”
It’s a similar story over in the east, leastways for Edinburgh’s WHISKI Bar and restaurant on High Street, which is hosting its annual Burns Supper. Deputy Manager Ryan Jaffray said, “There’s definitely been a quicker uptake this year, as we are up on bookings on the same time last year. In fact, one of the two sittings is practically fully booked. There just seems to be more awareness around the night this time around.”
And what more fitting brand than Robert Burns Single Malt? Isle of Arran Distillers last year re-launched its Robert Burns Single Malt range, a multi-vintage edition of The Arran Malt named after Scotland’s most famous son. The whole range has been endorsed by the World Burns Federation
Euan Mitchell, Managing Director of Isle of Arran Distilleries, said, “As a Patron of the Robert Burns World Federation we wanted to create something special and with the end result we have achieved liquid poetry. Both Burns and whisky are global Scottish icons and we aim to promote this new bottling around the world”.
Then there’s the run up to 2014. What better time to hop on to the bandwagon celebrating all things Caledonian? The fervour will be gathering momentum over the next 18 months as it hurtles towards a bumper year for Scotland, with both the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and The Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, garnering a global focus on our country.
According to export figures, Scottish brands are also shining brighter generally on the global stage. The latest IWSR Top 50 International Brands report 2012 puts home grown brand Johnnie Walker at number 3. It sells more than 1m cases in three countries and more than 100,000 cases in 29 countries. Although it is not a big seller here, but this might change due to the influx of visitors expected in 2014.
It’s just a pity that our national drink doesn’t carry the same aspirational connotations and cool credentials over here as it obviously enjoys overseas, particularly with the youth market. Perhaps the next few years, and a swelling in national pride and patriotism, will tip the scales in Scotch whisky’s favour in the domestic market?
There is nevertheless some good news about malt whisky sales in Scotland. A Market Report from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association last year said that the volume of malt whisky sold in the UK on-trade rose by 31% in the year to the end of April 2012, suggesting that the sales are beginning to reflect the success of the export market, albeit slowly. Perhaps the predicted decline of £300m in UK malt whisky sales highlighted in Mintel’s Dark Spirits Report the previous year was a little premature?
On an individual brand level, there’s also cause for optimism. Gordon & MacPhail also announced a hike in profits on account of sales at both home and abroad, of its single malt, Benromach, which was up 17% in the UK, in the year to 29th February 2012. Isle of Skye whisky owner Ian Macleod Distillers also unveiled a brand new look for its entire Isle of Skye blended range last year.
Arguably the most iconic Scottish brand is also going great guns. Tennent’s owners, the C&C Group, may have reported a drop in operating profit in the first half of 2012, down 2.7% to £53.3m, but the company also added that the success of Tennent’s did help limit losses. C&C has also shown strong international growth, which is excellent news for the iconic Scottish brand, with its parent company recently finalising a deal to acquire the Vermont Hard Cider Company in the US.
Its sister brand Caledonia Best has also just launched its very first TV advertising campaign, called Caledonia, which also features the song of the same name by Dougie MacLean. Since its launch in October 2011, is has achieved more than 10% distribution in the Scottish on-trade across 1,300 Scottish outlets, leading the market for share growth, says owner Tennent Caledonian. The company’s Marketing Director Paul Condron, said, “As we set out to create our first TV ad for Caledonia Best, we wanted to capture the role of the local pub in the social lives of so many Scots.”
Belhaven Best happens to be enjoying healthy sales too, in an otherwise declining Scottish beer market. Owner Greene King reported record profits last year, with sales volumes of the Scottish beer growing by 3.7%.Belhaven Best’s ‘Tae a Pint’ ads also draw on the poetic skills of Rabbie Burns to highlight the authenticity of Best, as well as raising awareness of new stout, Belhaven Black. The campaign features Scots taking a moment to pay tribute to the honey-coloured beer in the style of Burns.
So whether it’s a pint or a dram, there’s something for all your customers to raise a glass with in honour of the man himself later this month.

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