It may have been formed as a by-product of the broken economy, but recovery or not it’s clear that the ‘Big Night In’ occasion is now ingrained within the public’s psyche and well and truly here to stay.

Off-trade cider and perry sales are now worth £457m in convenience. H Weston & Sons continues to grow ahead of the total market at 25% value and 23.7% volume vs the latest MAT.

In fact, 45% of consumers had more quiet nights in, and 39% said they did more home entertaining in the past year, HIM’s Future of Convenience 2013 report recently revealed.

While initially driven by a desire to save money, shoppers have grown to love the Big Night In experience, with many now jumping at the chance to get together in the cosy confines of their living rooms, and a further 27% of consumers plan to do more entertaining at home in the next 12 months.

And looking ahead to the future, the in-home food market is predicted to grow by more than 20% in the next five years, according to Mintel’s British Lifestyles report.

The trend will become increasingly obvious in the following weeks, as the nights continue to draw in and the reality TV season revs up a gear.

TV is, of course, a major driver for Big Night In occasions and, happily for the UK’s legion of convenience store retailers, there will certainly be no shortage of must-watch series running this autumn and beyond.

The return of shows such as The X Factor will be a sure signal for Brits to forgo a night on the town, HIM’s September Shop Waves survey revealed, with 12% of respondents saying that the show would make them more likely to spend a Saturday night in with food and drinks, rather than going out.

Independent Premier retailer Linda Williams is no stranger to The X Factor effect at her Broadway Convenience Store in Edinburgh.

“Big Night In is still a huge opportunity and is set to become even more so now that The X Factor is back on TV,” she says. “This type of event TV has a huge impact on sales and we’ve recently added a number of new lines to our dedicated Big Night In ambient bay, which is now four metres long. Pricemarked sharing bags of crisps, nuts and sweets are the big sellers here, and if you can get them on promotion even better.

“At the moment we are running a ‘2 for £1’ promo across sharing bags of crisps and nuts from our Happy Shopper value range, which is really popular. We’ve also increased the number of £1 sharing bags that we sell, as that’s what people want the most. On a Friday and Saturday night, many people will buy three or four of them, in addition to soft drinks and alcohol. The £1 sharing bags of Doritos are our most popular product by far, and people tend to buy dips to accompany them,” she adds.

And while the months ahead won’t play host to the plethora of sporting events that took place last year, there will be plenty of other TV opportunities to exploit, including the Winter Olympics in February 2014.

Other high-grossing TV shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here (set to hit screens in a few weeks) are also likely to generate key Big Night In opportunities, and let’s not forget Downton Abbey, whose season finale on Sunday, 4 November last year attracted more than 12 million viewers.

Another significant opportunity is being cooked up as we speak by BBC2’s Great British Bake Off, viewed by more than 5.4 million people. The Great British Bake Off Drinking Game (full rules of which can be found on Facebook) encourages viewers to “have two glugs” every time the word ‘bake’ or ‘bakers’ is mentioned. Other rules include “every time a baker cries, give a friend a hug and finish their drink off,” and “when the bakers have finished cooking, the last person to shout Mary Berry has to have one sip of all the other players’ drinks”.

Unsurprisingly, alcohol tops the list of what people are buying for their Big Nights In. In fact, according to recent HIM research on the Big Night In occasion, 37% of shoppers on an “entertaining mission” were buying wine, 25% were buying beer and a further 25% lager. Soft drinks and confectionery are not far behind at 21%, with sharing confectionery at 13%.

Savvy shoppers

While shoppers may be feeling a little less financially strapped than they were a year or two ago, their appetite for a bargain has certainly not waned, meaning that offering a tempting mix of promotions across the Big Night In category is key.

Midweek the next opportunity

“The Big Night In opportunity has always been significant in our store, especially at weekends. However, we are now looking to extend that opportunity to midweek by changing our POS material to ‘Great Nights In’. Our range will still stay the same, but it’s designed to get shoppers to think differently when in store. It’s an idea that we got from a recent study tour to Cork and it should really help us to capture more of the midweek nights in opportunities. “

Paul Cheema

Malcolm’s Store, Coventry

“Economic challenges are continuing to re-shape consumer lifestyles and expectations within and outside the UK,” Mintel’s annual British Lifestyles report points out. “It seems bargain hunting has become ingrained among Britain’s savvy shoppers, with more than seven in 10 (72%) of consumers saying they like the ‘thrill’ of getting a bargain,” the report states. “The figure peaks among women (77% female consumers vs 66% men).

However, the nature of the promotions that retailers offer have to be carefully considered, warns Linda. “Keeping your promotions simple when pushing the Big Night In is important. We tried a promotion last year where we did a ‘3 for £3’ mix-and-match deal on 2ltr bottles of soft drinks, large sharing bags of crisps and a chocolate bar, and it just didn’t work. People found the three elements too confusing, and they didn’t like the fact that the 2ltr bottles of soft drink were displayed at ambient temperature on the shelf next to sharing bags. It may not be the case in every store, but in ours soft drinks have to be chilled to sell. As a result, we put the drinks back in the chillers and boosted the number of £1 bags that we sell, as well as promotions on single items which is working much better,” she adds.

Top 10

Large pouch lines


Galaxy Minstrels

Cadbury Giant Buttons large



Cadbury Giant Buttons handy

Cadbury Twirl Bites

Galaxy Counters

Cadbury Dairy Milk

Milky Way

Source: IRI Grocery Outlets, 52 weeks ending 29 December 2012

And while on the subject of promotions, as part of a deal struck with national wholesaler Palmer & Harvey, convenience retailers are now able to offer their customers the opportunity to purchase a tube of Pringles plus a 75cl bottle of Shloer (rrp £2.29) for £3.

Shloer head of brand marketing Amanda Grabham explains: “The partnership is targeted at the Big Night In occasion and will run this October to coincide with the launch of big autumn TV series such as The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing, where friends and family tend to watch together. POS will be available from Palmer & Harvey to promote the offer in stores.”

Pricemarked packs (PMPs) also play a key role, adds Ian Lewis, head of marketing at Westons Cider.

“Price is key as, according to IGD data for June 2013, 83% of shoppers say price is extremely, or very important, to them,” Lewis says. “This can be seen in the rise in number of PMPs in the convenience sector. They are a confidence booster for consumers as they communicate good value for money and are a good way of winning trust.” To capitalise on this, the company launched PMPs of Stowford Press back in May.

In addition, 86% of shoppers say they trust the price of a PMP over the shelf price, says Chris Shead, off-trade channel director for spirits at Pernod Ricard UK. “The mechanic is an effective way to drive rate of sale and repeat custom,” he adds.

Mum’s the word

Once the preserve of American housewives, the baby shower is the latest trend to cross the Atlantic. One in seven British women claim to have attended such a get-together in the past year, a study of more than 1,500 British females from has revealed.

According to the study carried out in February, women spend £220m attending baby showers every year, and one in eight claim to spend more than £100 gearing up for it by buying food, drinks and gifts.

Amanda Graham, head of brand marketing at Shloer, says: “These types of female-oriented, home-based social occasions are growing and are bringing an additional dimension to the Big Night In. This needs to be taken into account by c-stores wanting to develop this sales opportunity.”

Pernod Ricard UK has put its belief to the test with pricemarked packs for three of its popular brands - Malibu, Campo Viejo and Absolut - ideal for helping retailers capitalise on the Big Night In opportunity. Absolut carries a £13.49 pricemark on its 50cl bottle, while red wine Campo Viejo comes in a £6.99 pricemarked pack. Malibu is marked at £12.99 for its 70cl bottle, following the success of a 35cl pricemarked pack last year.

Any excuse for a party

Big Night In isn’t limited to seasonal or entertainment-driven events, though. With the right products, in the right places and at the right price or promotion, key opportunities exist to prompt Big Night In occasions whatever the day of the week, or time of the month.

“The way people organise their social lives has changed significantly,” says WKD marketing director Debs Carter. “RTD consumers have never been adept at planning ahead, and now with easy access to the latest technology and social media platforms, they can arrange to meet a group of friends for a Big Night In gathering at the touch of a button.”

This autumn, the brand is linking up with music streaming site Spotify for an on-pack promotion on 8x275ml WKD Blue multipacks in independents. The promotion offers consumers the chance to win a three-month Spotify premium subscription, worth £29.97.

The popularity of using RTDs in cocktails is continuing to grow, Carter adds. “RTDs are still very much seen as and consumed as drinks in their own right, but they are also increasingly being used as an ingredient for people making cocktails at home for friends on Big Nights In. These sharing cocktails are ideal for group occasions: they are quick and easy to make, add a dash of colour to proceedings and are a fun talking point. This trend is good news for c-store retailers as it provides the opportunity to generate incremental sales from the spirits and mixers used to make RTD cocktails,” she adds.

Variety will keep the whole crowd happy

When it comes to in-store displays “Big Night In consumers value product variety to ensure all tastes are catered for and to make the night extra special,” Susan Nash, trade communications manager at Mondelēz International, advises.

“We recommend that retailers stock a range of snacks with different tastes and textures. Providing an impactful, well-signposted Big Night In display, one which incorporates confectionery, savoury and drinks categories, will help maximise sales for retailers and encourage customers to purchase multiple sharing products from different categories. Retailers should ensure that displays are well stocked towards the end of the week to capture top-up shops before the weekend when the Big Night In is likely,” she adds.

Merrydown Cider head of brand marketing Amanda Grabham also suggests using window posters and, if permitted, outdoor boards displaying your ‘Having a night in?’ range, which will help draw custom in.

Along with posters, shelf barkers and wobblers, the free POS kits for the new Merrydown 500ml bottles includes branded floor vinyl footprints which could be used to direct people to a Big Night In fixture.

It’s not all about big weekends either, says Budgens and Londis retailer Binny Amin from Kent. He believes week nights can also present significant opportunities as families look to spend quality time together. “Consumers, and particularly those with children, are realising the importance of spending some time together, and dinner is the most obvious time to do this. A few years back people would just buy the pizza, but are now buying more fully across the range drinks, garlic bread, and the crisps and dips to go along with it.

“A lot of it has to do with how I’ve improved my merchandising to offer them the full Big Night In meal solution. Part-prepared products such as Budgens’ new Made Easy range are also growing in popularity as they allow people to make a quick, tasty, special dinner for their family and friends without breaking the bank, which is still important,” Binny adds.

Share and share alike

Value-seeking consumers want as much bang for their buck as possible, so when it comes to confectionery and crisps, sharing bags are where it’s at. According to Wrigley confections business unit director Matt Austin, 47% of sugar occasions occur at home and 66% of these are shared.

In fact, in 2012 sales of sharing bag pouches increased by 27%, points out Nicola Lacey, central sales director for Mars Chocolate UK, which produces four out of the top five large pouch lines.

Bazooka Candy Brands’ marketing director Sarah Burrow also highlights the success of sharing bags. “When it comes to snuggling up on the sofa and settling in for a cosy night in front of the TV, there’s one format of sweets and confectionery that trumps all others: the mighty share bag.”

The company offers a host of sharing bags, with sizes ranging from 120g to 160g, including the recent Moshi Monsters Fluffies Foam Gummies in the popular 120g PMP share bag format.

The trend is no less pertinent within the crisps market, where All About Foods is hoping its refreshed Nando’s Peri-Peri Grooves crisps will make an impact. The crisps, which now feature ridge cuts and new-look packaging, are available in smokey BBQ, spicy chicken and sizzling hot in 150g packs for sharing, as well as a 40g pack.

One company which could be accused of over-estimating the sharing bag opportunity is Cambridgeshire Corkers Crisps. It has just set a new world record for making the biggest-ever packet of crisps. The 7.6m x 3.8m bag holds a weighty one tonne of sea-salt flavoured crisps, taking more than 20 hours to make.

In Brief

Pebbles joins the Cadbury line-up

Mondelēz International recently unveiled Cadbury Dairy Milk Pebbles (pictured below), targeting family sharing. The product is being supported by digital activity, PR and in-store promotions.

Make it easy with frozen desserts

Coppenrath and Wiese have a number of new frozen products launching this month and next, including Fruit & Nut Chocolate Dessert, Milka Chocolate Gateau and Apple Walnut Cake.

Butterkist moves into savoury

New from Butterkist are three savoury popcorn flavours. Sour cream & chive, sea salt & balsamic vinegar and barbecue are all available in a larger 80g pack (rrp £1.49). The company is also launching a Limited Edition range. Autumn’s flavour is Butterkist Toffee Apple.

Galaxy spin-offs here to stay

Mars has unveiled two new permanent additions to the Galaxy range. Honeycomb crisp is available in 40g (rrp 57p) and 114g (rrp £1.39) formats, while Nut crunch comes in a 114g block (rrp £1.39).

Top sugar brands get price flash

Wrigley brands Skittles and Starburst now feature pricemarks. Skittles (125g) and Starburst (150g) PMPs boast a prominent £1 flash.