Posted: 14/08/2020

Retailers preparing for surge in online cheese sales at Christmas

Retailers preparing for surge in online cheese sales at Christmas
Boxed selections, like this tasting experience set supplied by Paxton & Whitfield, have been developed in response to big increases in online sales

Cheesemongers are gearing up for a huge surge in online Christmas cheese orders as changes to shopping patterns caused by the coronavirus crisis look set to continue.   

Internet sales of cheese increased around ten-fold during the lockdown period, according to cheesemongers contacted by FFD, as people struggled to buy food from supermarkets. The trend has continued, even as lockdown is relaxed, with retailers now preparing for a bumper online Christmas, especially if social distancing rules continue.

“Online cheese sales have been moved forward by years during this period,” said Paxton & Whitfield’s head of operations, James Rutter. “Customers that didn’t feel comfortable or would never have thought of buying cheese online are now much more willing to do so.”

Paxtons has launched several new Christmas cheese-tasting experiences that can be ordered online and for families to try at home or over Zoom. It is also looking to increase mail-order fulfilment capacity at its Bourton-on-the-Water site ahead of Christmas. 

“How do we make more space for picking and packing? Do we need to outsource ambient storage to do that? Do we need new refrigeration so we can carry more cheeses? These are the questions we’re working through,” said Rutter.

The Fine Cheese Co is also looking at ways of increasing capacity for mail order. “We’ve had 14 weeks of increased online sales, but at Christmas everyone wants it on 22nd December,” said cheese care manager Ruth Raskin. “We can’t expand the space, so we’re looking at more and staggered shifts. This could be the year we finally do night shifts.” 

To help streamline cutting and wrapping, the company will also encourage shoppers to buy selection boxes rather than ordering individual cheeses.

Scottish cheesemonger George Mewes said he planned to rationalise his range to help meet increased online Christmas orders. “We’ve picked up lots of new online customers through this period, so we’ll scale the selection back slightly to popular cheeses,” he said.  “It helps us with wastage, rotation and packing.”

All the cheesemongers contacted by FFD were confident that Christmas sales would be good despite concerns about the economy.

“Christmas could be a bumper one,” said Rhuaridh Buchanan of Buchanans Cheesemonger.  “It could be the first time families have got together at the end of a hard year. The feeling could be, ‘We’ve made it through all this, so let’s have a spanking Christmas’.”

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