Promoting unexpected, additional sales has been at the heart of independent retailers’ strategies for as long as there have been independent retailers. Olivia Gagan finds out what driving impulse sales means in 2018

Tie in impulse with events

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The Premier League may have ended last weekend, but with the World Cup kicking off in a matter of weeks, Mondelez is running a football-themed Cadbury promotion to “drive sales of singles bars”. 

Running until 30 June, the on-pack promotion offers 13 consumers the chance to play five-a-side football with Thierry Henry, Shay Given, Jamie Redknapp and others.

Prizes of £1,000 are also available, and Susan Nash, trade communications manager at Mondelez International, says retailers who get involved can also take advantage. 

“The competition offers participating retailers a way
to win, too – for store owners who stock the participating products and display PoS material, Mondelez will match the value of each cash prize for retailers where winning packs are purchased.”

Magazines also benefit from connections with events. Mark Ansell, of Liskeard News, Cornwall, makes sure he gets his store ready for any upcoming sporting events: “We theme an impulse display around events and plan ahead for these. When the Tour de France comes up, for example, we do a cycling magazine display,” he says.

Work with the seasons
The impulse item customers might be interested in can change depnding on the time of year: in the summer it might be a soft drink or an ice cream. But in the winter it is a hot drink or even a pair of gloves. 

Mark Ansell sees the arrival of spring and summer as an opportunity to capitalise on customers’ perennial green-fingered ambitions.

“At the moment, we have a BBC Gardeners’ World display, because we saw they would be offering two-for-one entry to UK garden attractions.

Last year, a similar promotion caused a big uplift in sales and we sold 65 issues – so this year we’ve ordered 85 and made it the centre of an impulse display. It is a lot easier to sell things when there is a promotion attached.

I’ve also added magazines called Grow Your Own and Kitchen Garden on the same stand to encourage people who are interested in gardening to pick those up at the same time.” 

Focus on soft drinks chiller

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The arrival of the soft drinks sugar tax has meant suppliers have been busy introducing new and/or reformulated products for this category. Embracing these new products and showcasing them in retailers’ chillers is, retailers agree, a key way of growing impulse sales in the category. 

Coca-Cola European Partners has launched a raft of new brands and variants including Monster Ultra Violet and Pipeline Punch, Diet Coke Exotic Mango and Feisty Cherry, and Fuze Tea. Its trade communications manager, Amy Burgess, says the key to capitalising on the impulse sales opportunities these new products offer is keeping fixtures full. 

“It’s worth keeping stocks high to meet increasing demand for drinks on-the-go with as wide a choice of products as possible, considering a range of sectors, variants and pack formats,” she says.  

Red Bull is another company to invest in its range – launching Red Bull Tropical and Orange Editions – and its category development manager, Richard Fisher, suggests retailers’ category management should reflect the changes in the industry. 

“Retailers should regularly – on a monthly basis – review their EPoS data to determine best-selling lines. It is important that slow-selling lines are removed to make space for those that generate more revenue,” he says. 

Secondary site items
For Keith Tomes, of Costcutter & The Food Shop in Swanage, Dorset, growing impulse sales means offering a compact selection of complementary impulse items alongside an already-established display. Soft drinks, for instance, can work particularly well as impulse items when merchandised alongside hot food. 

“We stock a few small bottles of drinks and cans next to our food to go section,” he says. “They’re not expensive and people will often pick up a bottle of water to go with whatever hot item they originally came in for.” 

Dan Newell, marketing director at Mars Wrigley Confectionery, says when it comes to chewing gum, multiple sitings are an effective way to boost sales. “Locating gum next to a second till, confectionery aisle or dental section will drive additional purchases and ultimately maximise sales,” he says. 

The company also has a dedicated Display Transformation Team that helps retailers hone their displays depending on the size of the store and space for gum.

Throw in a curveball
Another way to approach impulse is to try placing products in unexpected spots, suggests Anish Panchmatia, of Spar Wylde Green in Sutton Coldfield. Placing items in counter-intuitive areas can help shake shoppers out of a rut, he says. 

“The nature of convenience stores means customers are usually coming in for one or two items, and their focus is on those products,” he says. “They’re not spending time wandering round and learning about the full range of items you offer. So, we often stock impulse items in what may appear to be illogical places, but they make shoppers realise what we have available away from their usual route around the store.”

He has found success by stocking a toilet roll promotion on the end of an aisle usually dedicated to dry food products, for example. “You might not think of that product as an impulse item, but people will grab it even if they came in for something else.”