How to grow your alcohol sales this summer

Alcohol sales are important all year round, but they really come into their own during the summer months. Noli Dinkovski offers a category-by-category break down of why the summer alcohol opportunity is too big to miss out on.


Summer is second only to Christmas when it comes to seasonal sales uplifts of spirits, so retailers should reflect that in their offer. And it’s premium spirits that fare best of all, claims Chris Ellis, commercial director for Pernod Ricard.

Top tips:

  1. Stock the right range for your shoppers and the mission they are on – such as something for tonight, ready to serve, smaller sizes (50cl, 35cl and 20cl), price-marked packs and pre-mix drinks.
  2. Ensure your display is clearly laid out. Group sub-sectors together, block vertically so shoppers can see the full category rather than having to scan left to right to find products, and place higher-priced and premium products above.
  3. Bring top-selling brands out from the counter and onto the shop floor.
  4. Chill pre-mix drinks, as 70% of pre-mix is intended to be consumed  on the same day of purchase.

“Key spirits trends this summer will be vodka, white rum and ready-to-drink cans,” he says. “At 52.5%, vodka’s volume share of total spirits throughout the summer months last year remained above the
yearly average.”

According to Joanna Segesser, Pimm’s marketing manager, the flavoured spirits category is currently experiencing 15% growth across all markets – 10% greater than non-flavoured spirits – which is why Diageo added Pimm’s Strawberry with a Hint of Mint to its flavours range last month. “Pimm’s is intrinsically linked to British summertime fun – last year we outsold other specialty spirit brands three-fold, increasing our market share from 21% to 46%,” she says. “The launch of Pimm’s Blackberry & Elderflower proved successful in driving category growth.”

A further trend to look out for is the growing popularity of price-marked packs and fractional bottle sizes.

Russian Standard vodka is available in a number of fractional PMPs, and marketing director Graham Glen says 200ml bottles of vodka outperform the rest of the category in impulse stores.

“The reason that they are so successful is that the purchase risk is significantly reduced, which allows shoppers to trial different or premium brands,” he says. “Similarly, with PMPs, consumers feel reassured that they are paying a fair price when shopping in a c-store rather than a supermarket.”

Speciality spirit Jägermeister added a range of smaller PMP sizes last autumn. “One fifth of all spirits spend in convenience now comes from 350ml bottles,” says Jonathan Dennys, customer marketing & insights controller at Mast-Jägermeister. “Consumers would rather buy a smaller bottle of their favourite spirit than a larger, cheaper imitation brand.”

The growing popularity of frozen pouches should also be considered. Diageo will launch Pimm’s Summer Crush and Gordon’s Frozen Cooler frozen pouches this summer, while, SHS Drinks rolled out a WKD Original Blue freeze pouch pack format in April.


san miguel

A sure sign that summer has arrived is when the barbecues come out and impulse purchases of beer start to soar.

But while it’s great news for independent retailers, they do need to react accordingly, says Sunny Bhurji, director of trade marketing at AB InBev.

“If there’s a sunny weekend, or even a sunny day, consumers tend to visit their local convenience stores for immediate consumption – but 42% of them will only buy beer if it’s cold,” he claims. “Therefore, retailers need to communicate to shoppers that they have cold beer in store.”

Retailers should also consider cross merchandising. “A merchandising fixture of snacks, beer, soft drinks, ice and other barbecue essentials could be installed in a hotspot to increase average spend,” Bhurji says. AB InBev plans to launch a barbecue-focused campaign for Budweiser this summer.

Mainstream lager brands aside, it’s also worth considering less familiar variants. Spirit-beers, or ‘speers’, are a fast growing sub-category in lager, and Global Brands says its Amigos Tequila Flavoured Beer works well with Mexican-themed food such as tortilla chips.

“We have recently introduced a new 660ml alongside the existing 330ml bottles, four-packs and cans,” says Global Brands marketing director Simon Green.



Cider has been one of great drinks stories of recent times, and the category grew by another 2% last year to £2.5bn.

Its success has resulted in more varieties and flavours on offer than ever before, making it tough for retailers to work out an ideal range. Cider maker Thatchers suggests offering customers a choice of established and heritage brands alongside newer styles.

According to David Scott, director of brand & insight at Carlsberg, cider in the UK is growing faster than the total alcohol category.

“Summer offers great opportunities to capitalise on cider trends, particularly the on-going boom of fruit-flavoured variants, which very much remain the hero of the entire cider category,” he says. “People want to explore more versatile and exotic flavour profiles. The category is no longer just about the classics.” In the past 12 months, off-trade sales of fruit flavoured cider grew by 30%, he adds. The company has just launched three fruit flavours for Somersby. “We know there is a strong consumer desire for great-tasting fruit-flavoured ciders and we’re confident that our new flavours will attract more consumers to the category,” he says.

Craig Clarkson, off-trade category & trade marketing director for Heineken, adds that the growth of cider is being helped by how social it is. He says: “People are turning to drinks that are acceptable for both men and women to drink when they’re together. It’s ruling out lager a bit but helping flavoured ciders.”

Fruit cider continues to provide new flavours and serves to provide incremental growth to the total cider category. A prime example of innovation came from Diageo last month. Through Pimm’s it took cider to the next level by infusing the spirit with cider, which it says opens a potential sales opportunity of more than £14m across total trade.

Despite the continued rise of fruit-flavoured ciders, it’s worth remembering that apple is still the leading cider sub-category, holding a 72% value market share for the first three months of 2015.

Believing that this sub-category has been overlooked in recent years, Swedish cider Rekorderlig added a Dry Apple flavour to its range. “The apple cider is available in 4x330ml bottles, offering a premium modern look and feel,” says John Logue, global customer marketing manager at Chilli Marketing.

Meanwhile, much like spirit beers, spirits with cider are starting to make some headway. One such example is the recently launched Magners with Irish Whiskey in 500ml bottles.

“As a result of the increased number of launches available on shelves, retailers should ensure they have a balanced range, representing all the sub-segments,” says Angela Ham, customer marketing controller at Magners owner C&C Group.

Scott adds that another way to grow profits is to capitalise on sharing occasions, such as sporting events, summertime weather, public holidays and weekends. “An effective approach to this is to increase the stock of cases during such instances, and perhaps offer these at a reduced cost or as part of a food & drink deal,” he adds



While it’s generally acknowledged that consumers tend to switch away from reds in favour of whites and rosés during the summer, there are other trends worthy of note.

“We’re also now seeing more shoppers opt for Prosecco or sparkling wines as the ranges on offer have become more affordable and, therefore, more accessible to a wider consumer audience over
the past year,” says Shaun Heyes, business sector controller for impulse at Treasury Wine Estates.

Additionally, Heyes believes many retailers miss out on the huge opportunity presented by shoppers who are willing to pay a bit more for quality.

“Figures show that sales of wine within the £6-£8 price bracket are growing by 5% year on year in impulse and make up almost 28% of all wine sales,” he explains. “Retailers, however, don’t always dedicate enough space or range to wine at this price point, so they should ensure that they do so.”

Consider alcohol-free options as well. While UK wine sales in the off-trade fell by 3% for the 12 months to the end of January, alcohol-free wine sales increased by 33%.

“Designated drivers, summer slimmers or those just cutting down on their alcohol intake still want to feel part of social occasions,” says Fran Draper, brand manager at Eisberg Alcohol-Free Wine. “We have found that Eisberg has a significant uplift in sales when it has been clearly signposted as alcohol-free.”

How will you create your own summer? Tweet us your ideas using the hashtag #CreateMySummer.


This article doesn't have any comments yet, be the first!

Become a member to have your say