A real point of difference - together with craftsmanship - will drive up sales on gifting occasions, says Peter Wright

Easter gifting is becoming far more focused on shoppers' own children and close family, and people are sticking with tried and trusted brands.

Based on these research findings, in the grocery channel we increased our focus on delivering a great children's range, including a Football and Princess Egg, Bunny Pals models and two impulse lollies to cover a range of price points and occasions.

Despite a heavily traded environment, especially for children's eggs, Thorntons' highly decorated children's eggs performed very strongly. We had strong distribution year-on-year and had a great sell-through. Thorntons offered a real point of difference for people wanting to give a more thoughtful Easter gift.

The Easter range in our own retail stores also had a revamp, with a new bunny model called Benji, along with brand new models Bella Bunny and Lenny Lamb, which have proved very popular with kids and big kids alike.

A key trend we identified after last Easter was that consumers were looking for novelty chocolate models that weren't eggs an area where Thorntons excels. Not only do we have beautifully crafted models but we also offer personalisation, with any message or name iced for free. We saw a huge growth in this area this Easter.

In supermarkets and independent retailers, premium egg purchases are last-minute, with up to 60% of sales coming in the last three days of trading. In our own stores we also find customers leaving their Easter shopping until the very last week.

Overall, in our own stores we found that customers were not treating themselves but were focusing on gifts for close family and, as a result, we sold more eggs than last year and saw huge growth in novelty models.

We also saw our sales double on flavoured Easter eggs such as toffee and fudge, because people wanted something a little bit different and more special, and that did not mean "retro".

Thorntons continues to deliver a strong range of premium eggs. Our existing bestsellers in grocery (Moments, Premium and Classic Eggs) all continued to drive growth both for the brand and the category without heavy discounting.

Peter Wright is marketing director at Thorntons