Looking ahead to spring, although Easter will be flagged up as the main event in the bakery calendar, it’s important not to overlook another potential sales opportunity Mother’s Day. Falling on Sunday 3 April this year, Mother’s Day is traditionally a gift occasion and a time when your products may not sell on taste alone. Thought needs to be given to the presentation and packaging of your goods for example, the addition of a gift box could turn a selection of your brownies into a present rather than an afternoon snack. Inviting window displays are also key to reminding consumers they needn’t say it with flowers, or chocolates, but with biscuits and cakes instead.
Mike Holling, retail and sales manager of craft chain Birds of Derby, says developing Mother’s Day products for your customers is a great way for craft bakers to bring in incremental sales to their business. "Last year we achieved sales in excess of £8,000; our target in 2011 will be to increase this by 15-20%," he says. "We simply adapt some of our regular products, such as biscuits and novelty lines, adding inscriptions in order to generate sales. Strawberry and lemon cupcakes were a particular success last year."
Established in 2007, Biscuiteers is an example of a bakery and gift business at its best. Its strapline ’Why send flowers when you can send biscuits instead?’ says it all. Founder Harriet Hastings says people are prepared to pay for beautifully made premium products, especially when buying them as a gift. She says Mother’s Day is a very big occasion in Biscuiteers’ trading calendar, second only to Christmas. It sells its handmade iced biscuits, including the likes of ’I love you mum’ biscuit cards, in gift tins.
"Biscuits are wonderful because they are so adaptable and have limitless design possibilities," says Hastings. "We do launch new Mother’s Day collections every year, but we also sell a lot of the Flower Power, Cooks Tins and Cupcakes tins. We also offer personalised biscuit card teapots, which we can ice with customers’ messages. Those are popular."
With adequate packaging essential for sending biscuits through the post, Hastings says its packaging has been designed to "withstand the rigours of Royal Mail", with its biscuits delivered in tins in custom-made outer packaging.
The trend for elaborately iced biscuits appears to be gathering steam, with Juliet Stallwood, of Juliet Stallwood Cakes and Biscuits, experiencing a busy Mother’s Day last year, the first in her businesses’s trading calendar. The small family-run business, based in Semley near Shaftesbury in Dorset, offered three cupcake designs for Mother’s Day, along with handmade biscuits, and Stallwood says the business has since expanded really quickly, with enquiries from her website flooding in.
If consumers want to say it with flowers, they can always do it with a cupcake bouquet. Victoria Forward, owner of Portsmouth-based Let Them Eat Cake discovered that her cupcake bouquets were an instant hit for Mother’s Day last year, making it ones of her busiest trade weekends to date, and will be offering them again this year. Forward also runs cake decorating workshops and plans to host a special one the Saturday before Mother’s Day in order to teach people how to make the cupcake bouquets for their own mums.
She came across the idea of the bouquets after a spot of internet research, which showed they were gaining popularity in the US and, in just two weeks, she trialled the designs and marketed them, using her Facebook page, word-of-mouth and, interestingly, through free community ad site Gumtree. "The cupcake bouquets are something a bit different to giving flowers and chocolates," she says. She offers a range of different styles: buttercream rose swirls, which were the most popular; hand-piped roses; chrysanthemums; and gerbera daisies, and says she plans to branch out and offer a more premium service this year with messages in icing and gift cards as options.