As the weather gets warmer, shoppers will look to their local convenience store to help them host garden parties and gatherings. Anna Metcalfe finds out how you can meet the demand.

What’s the opportunity?

Choosing to relax at home with friends and family has become far more common and the habit is set to remain.

The trend has been mirrored with the rise in popularity of entertainment services like Netflix and Now TV, and it’s not just the dark, winter months that retailers can take advantage of.

Summer means barbecues and gatherings with friends, family and loved ones and retailers that stock products to suit these needs will be successful.

Shoppers are willing to spend more on premium products for these events, so retailers should stock snacks, food and drinks that will help shoppers make the evening special.

Amy Burgess, trade communications manager for Coca-Cola European Partners, says adult soft drinks can drive the amount of money shoppers spend. “Adult soft drinks offer consumers a sophisticated alternative to alcohol that they are happy to consume while others may be drinking beer, wine or cocktails,” she adds.

Suppliers and retailers agree that there is a massive opportunity for shops that inspire shoppers this summer.

Matt Collins, KP Snacks convenience sales director, says: “As the warmer months approach, consumers will be spending more time socialising. Seventy-six per cent of people now spend most of their leisure time at home and the sharing segment is up 3.3% year on year.”

The bonus for convenience stores is that these events are often unplanned, so shoppers will be looking to their local shop for last-minute purchases.

Gatherings with friends

Socialising at home with friends is growing in popularity, particularly with younger adults. This means having the right drinks and snacks is key.

Andy Verney, Kettle Foods head of impulse, says: “Despite an improving economic climate, consumers continue to entertain at home and they want to treat themselves and their guests.”

These consumers are more likely to seek out new products, so interesting flavours are essential. “Consumers are increasingly on the hunt for quirky, unusual flavours, especially during key snacking seasons in the year, like the summer holidays,” says Clare Furlonger, Kellogg’s snacks marketing director.

“Street food and food festivals are extremely popular, which is opening up consumer palates to a whole range of new and unusual flavours.”

Having the right drinks on offer is also key to a successful night. More than 50% of alcohol purchased in a convenience store is for consumption on the same day and Claire Kendall, senior customer category development manager at Diageo, says convenience retailers could boost their profits with pre-mixed drinks this summer.

“Pre-mixed drinks are growing faster than beer, wine and cider on impulse, with a steady increase in sales of 14%,” she explains.

Diageo has just launched a range of ready-to-drink £1.50 price-marked packs across its range, which includes Smirnoff & Cranberry and Captain Morgan Spiced & Cola. Offering shoppers value when they need it most is a great way to drive sales and loyalty. The company has also launched Baileys Ice Coffee in 200ml cans.

Couples staying in

While date nights are still very much in fashion, couples are also embracing cosy nights in together with snacks and treats.

Confectionery is key to this type of night in. Susan Nash, trade communications manager at Mondelez International, says: “Chocolate is still the number one choice for those settling down for a night in with friends and loved ones – there are plenty of opportunities for cross-category selling to create the perfect night in.”

Large chocolate tablet bars are a priority and Cadbury has launched two new varieties of Cadbury Dairy Milk Oreo, in Mint and Peanut Butter flavours. The brand also bolstered its sharing bags earlier this year with Cadbury Fudge Minis.

Shoppers are keen to make the evening special when it’s with a loved one. Cocktails at home are a huge, rising trend and convenience stores can stand out from the competition by helping their shoppers make them easily.

Faith Holland, head of category & insights, Diageo, urges retailers to stock relevant ingredients together.

“Stores can personalise it by using ‘manager’s choice’ or ‘cocktail of the day’ labels, or go a step further by creating an in-store bar, which displays the finished drinks,” she explains.

Premium products are important for couples spending time at home together. The evening snacking market is worth more than £5.2bn and is growing
by 2.8%.

Garden parties

“With UK weather unpredictable, consumers may only have one or two days to prepare for garden parties, so retailers looking to make the most it should make shopping as simple as possible,” says KP Snacks’ Matt Collins.

Snacks, drinks, treats, meat and bread should be merchandised together, where possible, or linked through PoS. Adrian Troy, marketing director at AG Barr, says retailers should ramp up their focus on take-home products. “They’re hugely important for summer nights in as they are higher-value items that encourage footfall and loyalty,” he says.

Visit our month of summer feature for more advice, tips and products to boost your sales this summer!