The Golden Quarter:

Is retail’s final push three months of organised chaos?

By Blackdog - one year ago


The final three months of the year are always something of a cup final for the UK’s supermarkets, encompassing significant seasonal events including Halloween, Bonfire Night, Diwali, Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

In addition, there are a few more modest occasions such as Thanksgiving that are now being acknowledged, and 2021 even saw some food brands trying to get rather niche events such as the Mexican Day of the Dead off the ground as a social and retail occasion in the UK.


As such, the so-called Golden Quarter is the culmination of months and months of planning with painstaking organisation in sourcing, distribution and merchandising being carefully sequenced so as to maximise commercial potential, capture incremental spend and, of course, to Captivate People to buy.

It is at times like this where the logistical and merchandising skills of British supermarkets really shine through: a result of close collaboration between internal event and seasonal teams, suppliers and shopper marketing agencies – something Blackdog know first-hand, having worked with Tesco for 17 years and counting to deliver the highly efficient communications required at this pivotal time of year – all to result in a virtually seamless execution of a succession of key trading hotspots.

Several spanners in the works in 2022

It is fair to suggest that retailers are still suffering a few hiccups in terms of staffing and supply chain that might make the Golden Quarter trickier to accomplish this year. The fact that there is a disastrous cost-of-living crisis unfolding in the background might be described as less than ideal too.

Arguably therefore, it would be an extremely valid observation that major grocers (in England and Wales at least) really could have done without FIFA deciding to award the 2022 World Cup Final to Qatar. The World Cup is a massive event that usually takes place in the British summer and involves a wide succession of suppliers, most notably those focused around alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, snacks and assorted general merchandise paraphernalia.

This year, though, due to the awarding of the tournament to Qatar, the World Cup has been unceremoniously dumped smack bang into the middle of the busiest trading period of the year. Clearly, with drinks and snacks suppliers already gearing up for a busy Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the World Cup is going to increase pressure, and might also lead to a degree of instore confusion as World Cup campaigns compete head-to-head with those for the festive period.

Clearly, captivating customers to navigate the somewhat overlapping events of the trading period is vital, and bringing clarity to shopper environments is something we specialise in, so speak to a member of our team today.

HFSS is yet another headache

You might be forgiven for thinking that things couldn’t get any more difficult for the supermarkets. However, the government regulations on the physical location of foods and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt in stores in England handily kicked off on 1st October, meaning that retailers and suppliers will no longer be able to merchandise HFSS products at store entrances, on gondola ends or at checkouts.

Given that over half of all chocolate is bought from locations other than the main fixture, the inability of suppliers to place their wares on pallets at the front of the store or on free standing display units liberally sprinkled across the entire supermarket means that they will be limited to trying to ply their trade in the main confectionery aisle or in the seasonal aisle. The sight of pallets of manifold Christmas chocolate tubs at the front of the shop will now be a thing of the past.

Clearly the first real impact we will see from HFSS will be for Halloween, another event where confectionery suppliers rely on off-shelf displays to capture a significant part of their business.

There will need to be a great deal of ingenuity from suppliers and retailers to activate demand in-aisle, such as engaging point of sale like Tesco’s Halloween campaign, which was creatively developed by Blackdog and is now being unveiled in stores across the country.


We are also seeing some big supermarkets free up some much-needed space by removing either checkouts or entire aisles to create seasonal areas that will be exempt from the new regulations.

One event might have disappeared…

It seems likely, though, that some of the big supermarkets will remove one self-inflicted irritation in the remainder of the year by finally dispatching with the American import Black Friday. While it will probably remain important for general merchandise retailers, such as Currys, Argos and Amazon, for the supermarkets it has always been something of an unconvincing distraction: seemingly random items displayed across the store offering debatable savings for customers.


Given that discretionary spend on non-food items is almost certainly going to be hamstrung by the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and that space is at a premium thanks to HFSS, swerving Black Friday seems like an eminently sensible thing for supermarkets to do with already enough distractions to see them through to 2023.

Read more on how to serve shoppers amidst the cost-of-living crisis.

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