When consumers’ money begins to get tight, several things are shown to happen: people go out less and stay in more; consumption of alcohol at home goes up while visits to the pub get less. All this is positive for convenience stores who are ready to make the most of alcohol sales and allied products.

Each year HIM speaks to 30,000 convenience store shoppers to understand what they are buying and why. Its latest survey shows that 8% of customers intended to buy beer, wines and spirits and 8% of customers did actually buy beer, wines and spirits. It’s good news that there is no slippage between intended and actual purchases, but not so good that there’s no impulse within this category.

One reason for this could be that spirits are kept behind the counter and cannot be seen by customers, who may also feel too intimidated to ask for them. However, many spirits manufacturers are willing to support retailers in bringing spirits from behind the counter on to the shop floor, by providing security caps.

The HIM survey also highlighted how important it is for c-stores to offer a chilled option and a ready stock of ice. Most customers said they were going to drink the alcohol purchased at home and 11% said that they would drink it immediately. Some 78% said that they intended to buy chilled alcohol and 65% picked up lager from the chiller.

Some 42% of customers said that the drink purchased was to accompany a meal, therefore simple suggestions for food and wine matching could be helpful. So, too, would be a list of the top 10 white and red wines. Wine tastings in store can also be an easy way to create theatre and promote new lines.

One-third of customers said that they would drink their purchase with friends and/or partner. Why not offer cocktail party suggestions and accessories, or put share bags of crisps and snacks next to the category to make sure customers have everything they need for a big night in?

During a recession every visitor counts and every visit counts, so make sure you are doing everything you can to create additional sales, even in those categories which aren’t typically impulsive.

Tips for retailers

l Offer chilled alcohol and ensure you have sufficient chilled stock at peak times

l Put lemons and limes near spirits

l Put share bags of crisps and other snacks near the alcohol fixture

l Offer gift bags/gift wrap for purchases to turn them into the perfect gift.