X Factor has already begun and Strictly Come Dancing will follow this weekend, signalling the start of a likely boom for autumn big night in sales. Priyanka Jethwa guides you through the opportunity

This year’s heatwave has highlighted just how important the weather can be in affecting convenience store shoppers’ buying habits. And while summer boosts sales of drinks, burgers and ice creams, autumn brings sales opportunities of its own.

Halloween, Diwali, the return of the Premier League and hundreds of other reasons make autumn the perfect time to boost big night in sales, suppliers say. “With the colder months calling for an increase in indoor social gathering, independent stores can tap into this sales opportunity by stocking up on all the essentials needed for last-minute get-togethers for a big night in,” says Matt Collins, sales director for convenience at KP Snacks.

Plus, the evidence suggests while this is the perfect time to review and improve big night in displays and ranges, there are more long-term trends at work, too. Recent research from Unilever’s Partners for Growth platform shows a sharp increase in evening snacking. While 28% of all meals at home are made up of snacks, daytime snacking is in decline and evening snacking is pushing up the overall category’s growth.

So, what can store owners and managers do to ensure they benefit? Here, RN shows how retailers and suppliers are working to capitalise on this opportunity.

Stocking the right sharing range is crucial to making the most of a big night in

Focus on display, promotions and pack size 

“Stocking the right sharing range is crucial to making the most of a big night in, but it’s equally important to have the right promotions and displays in place to entice the shopper,” says Collins. Retailers who are allowed to should encourage cross-category purchases by grouping together snack foods, wine and beer, and sharing bags of crisps and confectionery.

Steve Kelly, channel director at Premier Foods, agrees that secondary siting will make the most of impulse opportunities. “Having all the components for a night in on one display will help attract shoppers to the fixture and can drive cross-category purchases,” he says. 

A key trend in alcohol is premiumisation, according to Toby Lancaster, category and shopper marketing director at Heineken. He suggests displaying more premium lines in stand-out places, such as by the entrance or at the end of an aisle, to encourage shoppers to trade up and try something new.

Pricemarked packs are also an effective tool to drive impulse sales. Collins says KP Snacks’ £1 pricemarked range is performing incredibly well and growing ahead of the total £1 pricemarked market at 30%.

Sugar confectionery offers similar opportunities, according to Hayley Nixon, marketing manager at Haribo. “We have a diverse portfolio of sweets on the market with sharing formats, mini bags and pre-portioned multipacks, helping shoppers make the choice that is right for them, their friends and family, whatever the occasion,” she says.

Offer healthier options

More shoppers are opting for lower-calorie snacks and those that offer a free-from alternative, so it is important retailers’ ranges tap into this trend.

Debbie King, director of commercial sales and marketing at Cofresh, says: “Health trends continue to drive the crisps, snacks and nuts category, and retailers who offer healthier alternatives to traditional snacks should be able to maximise sales significantly, not only for big nights in during autumn, but all year round.”

Promote it

Social media can be an invaluable tool for engaging shoppers with your big night in offering. 

Nick Widdowson, merchandising and creative controller at Unilever’s Partners for Growth, suggests using competitions to drive engagement. “Offering entry into a prize draw for people who like, share and comment on posts can really spread the word and bring customers in,” he says. 

8 top picks for your big night in display

Butterkist Sweet & Salted Popcorn
Haribo Fruitilicious
Hula Hoops Flavarings Tangy Cheese
Maynards Bassetts Soft Jellies Wild Safari
Old El Paso Meal kits
Poppets Toffee sharing bags
McCoy’s Chip Shop Salt & Vinegar Chips