Throughout the holiday season, wine, spirits, and beer gift baskets adorned with the right decorative touches present golden opportunities for retailers. Stores are dedicating counter space and manpower to focus solely on making and selling the baskets. Listening to customers and providing them with exactly what they want in spectacular fashion are the keys to this trade.
At Haskell’s in downtown Minneapolis, gift baskets are displayed throughout the store to create a cheerful ambience and boost sales. “We have one area with ten different baskets to choose from, but we also put baskets around the store,” says Jack Farrell, Haskell’s chairman and CEO. “They make the store look more festive.”
Whether pre-made or designed by customers themselves at a retail venue, the holiday season is show time for gift baskets. “We’re selling more pre-made baskets than we are custom baskets now because we’ve zoned in on a price point,” says Christian Navarro, president and principal of Wally’s Wine & Spirits in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, California. “We spend a lot of time designing baskets to make transactions quicker and easier for our customers.”
Wally’s offers 22 pre-made gift baskets, ranging in price from $40 for the Lola basket—which includes the 2016 Lola Chardonnay—to $20,000 for the Beyond Compare Basket, featuring nine bottles of fine and rare wines. The biggest seller, however, is the Bordeaux Direct Basket ($200), which has six bottles of red wine and assorted gourmet food. “We listen to the customer and curate items we feel are going to resonate long term with them,” Navarro says.
Other large sellers at Wally’s include the Dynamic Duo ($90)—featuring Newton Vineyards’ 2016 Claret Red Label Skyside and 2017 Chardonnay—and the Icon Basket ($250), which boasts a bottle of 2006 Dom Pérignon Champagne, hand-crafted chocolates, and gourmet food. The Hibiki Basket ($200), which features the Japanese whisky of the same name, is also popular. “People are gravitating toward quality over quantity,” says Navarro.
Wally’s also specializes in custom-made baskets. “In our stores we have a lot of wine specialists who are knowledgeable on how to do custom designs and help a customer curate their own basket,” Navarro says. “We have had people bring in Rolex watches and we integrate those. There are a lot of interesting combinations.”
At each of Haskell’s 12 stores in Minnesota, at least one person is dedicated to making gift baskets. “The holiday season is a big time for baskets, and 80%-85% of our baskets are sold between Thanksgiving and the first of the year,” says Farrell. “They are popular not only for wine, which is how we originally started the baskets. The spirits and beer baskets sell tremendously well, too.”
Haskell’s offers more than a dozen pre-made baskets ranging in price from $30 for the Italian Wine Basket to $126 for the Italian Gourmet Basket. Farrell anticipates Haskell’s will sell 5,000-6,000 baskets this holiday season. He expects the Moscow Mule Basket ($75)—which includes two Admiral Moscow Mule copper mugs, a 750-ml. bottle of Le Beau vodka, and four bottles of Cock-N-Bull ginger beer—will be a big seller. The 12 Bottle Beer Basket ($35)—an assortment of a dozen craft offerings—is one of Haskell’s biggest sellers. “Anybody can do baskets, but ours have a wide variety and our service is unrivaled,” Farrell says.
The chain’s Prosecco basket ($30), which features bottles of Casa Farrelli and Cavatina, is also very popular. “We put great wine in there, but what appeals to people is the glitter of the baskets,” Farrell says. “So we are long on that.”