Summer is almost upon us, and we all know what that means. School holidays, muddy festivals, disappointing sporting events and, of course, barbecues. As always, the Great British public are ready to strip off to the waist, don Union Jack shorts and fire up the grill at the first sign of sunshine. Thankfully, with the country’s climate being ever-changeable, a barbecue is increasingly viewed as a last-minute event by the public, and that’s where independent retailers come in.
Spar UK brand director Susan Darbyshire says the barbecue season can be a profitable one for small stores. “The heatwaves and sunny weather of 2013 saw huge increases in sales of barbecue and all barbecue-related products, with retailers recording strong sales in all our barbecue lines compared with the previous summer,” she says. “The key to boosting sales of barbecue and related products is an early launch in store. This means retailers can signpost to their customers that they can meet all their needs for a barbecue in full - whether the sun shines or not.”
Paul Cheema of Malcolm’s Stores in Coventry sees strong growth when the weather is good. The summer of 2013 proved to be the warmest since 2006, providing him with a solid sales uplift.
“We’ve seen up to a 12% increase in sales at our store during good weather,” he says. “Sales of barbecue meat, coleslaw, pre-packed salad and ice all become much more popular during the summer months.”
Paul believes that the sunshine changes his customers’ demeanours - and gets them spending more. “Customers don’t think about the money when it’s sunny; they’re thinking about barbecues and social gatherings.”
He says that retailers need to make the most of the sunshine and everything else that summer brings. “We’ll have sporting events on in the store, which creates a buzz with customers,” he says. “It doesn’t take much to have the events showing on TV for people to watch and get them involved and spending.”
Binny Amin, of Budgens in Whitstable, Kent, is in a prime location should temperatures soar. “We had an awesome summer last year,” he recalls. “There was a great combination of hot weather and plenty of events going on, so we saw a big uplift in sales.
How to sell meat without the risk of waste
While it may enable you to offer the complete barbecue package, stocking chilled meats isn’t for everyone. Dee Sedani of Londis in Etwall, Derbyshire, says that independent retailers struggle to compete against the multiples when it comes to chilled meats. “Customers will buy coal from us, but not the meat,” he explains. “It’s because there’s no consistency in offerings in the independent sector. Shoppers will go to one store and see a great offering and then another and see a poor one, and it affects the overall sector.”
He says the main barrier to entry is the risk of wastage. “I’ll only make about 80p margin on a pack of chilled meat, but if one goes out of date then I have to sell another five just to make up for that,” he says. “There’s too much risk versus a small margin, especially with the large case sizes. What we need is for symbol groups to offer one- or two-pack cases that will help retailers manage waste in the category.”
Nisa freeze buying controller David Lunn says that if retailers don’t want to risk waste, then frozen may be the answer. “To be prepared for the barbecue season, retailers can stock a basic range of related products in their freezer cabinets,” he says. “Top sellers such as Bird’s Eye four Original Beef Burgers and Bird’s Eye Quarter Pounders should be stocked throughout the year.”
He adds that there are some convenience-friendly packs on the market. “Sausages are an important product and Nisa has several to choose from, including Richmond, Wall’s and now a small convenience pack of Cumberland sausages.
“These generally have good promotional activity around them, while avoiding the wastage problems that may be encountered in chilled.”
“Also, because it was mostly groups of people coming into the store I saw a lot of new faces, plus they would split up the purchases for the barbecue and buy extra products each, increasing basket spend.”
Darbyshire says that while stocking barbecue items can be tricky, it’s vital to have them visible. “It is difficult to determine how much room a retailer should give barbecue in terms of physical space, as these products are large and don’t always fit well on standard shelving,” she says. “But stores should maximise their seasonal selling opportunities on these lines. In terms of forecourts, this could be outside space, whereas larger stores may create in-store displays or stacks of product inside.”
She believes that customers purchase with their eyes and so encourages retailers to begin stocking early. “Stores must allow consumers to see they have the products, to build awareness early in the season, even though the warmer weather may be a few weeks away,” she explains.
Get in early
Rishi Madhani of Today’s Stokenchurch in Buckinghamshire agrees it’s best to prepare early for the barbecue season to get the most out of it. “When the weather is good, there can be a huge growth in sales so we’ve already started stocking barbecue goods in preparation,” he says. “We had a bit of good weather in early March so that got people in looking for barbecue items, which gets it into their heads that they can buy these items from us.”
He says that independent retailers should be making the most of relationships with their suppliers to ensure they have the right stock in time for the warm weather. “We always have stock such as firelighters and disposable barbecues in the store room, but we’ve got quite a good relationship with our wholesaler so we can put in a last-minute call for these things and not miss out on sales if the weather turns suddenly,” he says.
“This relationship is important as it can mean the difference between getting the stock in time for a good weekend, or it arriving the Monday after when it’s too late.”
To ensure he makes the most of any warm weather, Binny uses Musgrave’s daily deliveries. “If we know the weather is going to be good for a couple of days, we can react quickly,” he explains. “With the daily delivery service, the stock is with us quickly and in time for us to take advantage.”
Being close to the beach, Binny and his team always make sure there is a stockpile of disposable barbecues and fuel. “We’ll have some in stock to keep us going and make sure to top it up when it runs down.”
Add extra sales with condiments
It’s the little extras that make barbecues sizzle, and stocking a wide variety of table sauces is a great way of offering shoppers something different and boosting basket spend. Although volume sales remained flat in 2013, value sales grew by 4% (Euromonitor), showing that consumers are willing to pay for different tastes.
According to RH Amar impulse channel controller Karen Jones, premium table-top brands will further benefit in 2014 from restored consumer confidence and buying more into well-known products.
“Carrying premium brands offers retailers another route to drive value trade,” she says. “Unlike more formal dining occasions, the informality of the barbecue occasion means that the bottle is on display and focus on the brand is strong.”
Alongside the move to premium lines, another trend will be making itself felt at barbecues across the UK. With the World Cup taking place in Brazil this June, the focus is on South American flavours.
Encona Sauces brand manager Lisa Leung says: “There will be huge interest in all things Brazilian this summer, representing a significant sales opportunity for retailers.”
The limited-edition Encona Brazilian BBQ Sauce (142ml, rrp £1.59) and the Encona range will be advertised on TV over the summer.
He also believes that theatre is a big part of attracting barbecue sales, and making an impact in a store doesn’t have to be much work. “We create displays with products already in the store, such as sauces and breads that can be merchandised together,” says Binny. “We’ll be taking it to the next level this summer by creating link deals with barbecue products such as paper plates and cups to grow spend.”
Stock the essentials
Nisa business manager for chilled foods Nick Slater agrees that retailers can get a solid barbecue offering together without stretching themselves too much. “Given Britain’s temperamental climate, it is important to keep a tight range of barbecue food in stock at all times, and be prepared with essential products such as sausages, burgers and rolls,” he says. “It is imperative this small range is always available, because the products are not just bought for barbecues, but consumed all year round. It will also ensure consumers identify the store as a destination for BBQ lines. However, if the weather is a let-down, most of Nisa’s protein-based barbecue lines can easily be grilled or even oven baked.”
He says that while c-stores usually have the sausages and burgers, in stock, it’s important retailers don’t forget all the ancillary lines to go with them. “These additional lines include rolls, bagged salads, sweetcorn and extra condiments,” he points out.
Paul says that just waiting for the hot weather to happen isn’t enough; retailers need to plan ahead to make the most of any sunshine. “The hot weather is great, but as a retailer you have to look at how you can benefit by looking ahead at the forecast and making sure you have enough barbecue products, rolls, condiments and salads,” he says.
“To stay on top of the weather, we’ll use the BBC five-day weather forecast to see what’s coming up. That way we can plan for the whole week and if there’s hot weather we stock up on products that we know will be popular.”
Rishi agrees about being prepared and using the technology available to maximise sales during the barbecue season. “It’s important to look at the forecast so you know what’s coming up for the weekend,” he says. “If we order by Wednesday, we can get stock in for that weekend if we know it’s going to be good weather. There’s no point in waiting until the last minute for these things.”
He says it’s also important for retailers to be flexible. “It’s one of the advantages of being an independent retailer that we can react quickly, but you need to have plans in place for good weather to make the most of sales.”
Rishi reveals that as soon as he knows what the weather will hold he makes sure he has enough fresh meat, bread rolls and alcohol for customers who want to organise their barbecue at the last minute. “We’ll work ahead and get plenty of buns and salads prepared for the day so that customers can get everything they need at short notice, because nobody really plans more than a few days in advance,” he says. “A barbecue is a last-minute occasion which means that shoppers will also usually spend more because they haven’t thought about it in advance.”
With space at a premium, retailers may be concerned about dedicating shelf space to something that customers may not want. Slater suggests keeping a tight range of essentials that can be added to at peak times. “A small range of lines which are always available will ensure consumers recognise retailers as a destination for barbecue lines.
“It is important for retailers to expand fixtures with more lines for the weekends, or when the forecast is good. They can build off-shelf displays with non-food barbecue lines, and add marinades, rubs and sauces placed near the meat and poultry section.”
So with tweaks to existing ranges and a little imagination, retailers can fire up sales this summer whenever the sun shines.
Budweiser does barbecues
RH Amar has relaunched Budweiser BBQ Sauces in time for the World Cup. Available in 300g bottles (rrp £2.29), it is hoped the brand’s close affinity with sporting events through past Premier League football sponsorship deals and its sponsorship of this years’ World Cup will strengthen the appeal of its BBQ sauces. The condiments contain 5-14% Genuine Budweiser Beer.
Fast sales from Bar-Be-Quick
The Levi Roots and Bar-Be-Quick partnership is set to continue for 2014. The disposable barbecue brand has also developed a new pairing with Schwartz, which launches in stores over Easter. The Schwartz-branded barbecues (rrp £3.99) feature four different on-pack recipes - Tennessee ribs, Brazilian churrasco-style BBQ beef, grilled salmon and grilled rare tuna steak.
Jack Daniel’s back for 2014
Jack Daniel’s limited-edition barbecue sauces are making a return for 2014. The Extra Hot Habanero Barbecue Sauce is blended with habanero chillies to create a smokey flavour with a kick of heat, while the Hot Pepper Steak Sauce is blended with jalapeno peppers, and ramps up the heat with a sweet but spicy sauce.
Premier Foods’ Oxo Shake & Flavour range is back on TV screens. Featuring throughout May and June, the TV ad will be supported by a wider £1.3m marketing campaign, including summer and BBQ-inspired in-store support, digital and PR activity.
Nisa barbecue lines for summer
Nisa is to launch 10 barbecue fresh meat and poultry lines for May. The range will include marinated and coated lines such as lamb koftas, barbecue rack of pork ribs, Chinese chicken drumsticks, piri piri chicken thighs and teriyaki beef steaks. All lines will be available throughout the summer on a ‘2 for’ offer.
Colman’s extends sauce range
Colman’s has added two new flavours to its barbecue sauces range: Chunky Burger and Fiery BBQ Chilli. The variants will be packaged in line with the rest of Colman’s sauces range, in 150ml clear bottles, rrp £1.69.
Cardini spices up salad dressings
The Cardini brand has upped the tempo in the salad dressings fixture with a Red Jalapeño Caesar Salad Dressing. It delivers the full flavours of Cardini’s traditional Caesar Salad Dressing, but with an added heat from red jalapeños in a 350ml bottle.
Natural firelighters from Flamers
Flamers natural firelighters are now available to convenience retailers. Having only been available through garden centres previously, Flamers are an eco-friendly firelighter suitable for use on fire pits, chimineas, BBQs and pizza ovens. They are available in 24s (rrp £3.50).